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The Financial Express

OPINION

The return of non-aligned values


--Representational image --Representational image

The unfortunate demise of the non-aligned movement had as much to do with geo-politics as it did with transnational corporation economic aspirations. India had been one of the last to hold true to self-sufficiency before succumbing to economic realities of feeding a massive population. More than half a century later with globalisation and open-market economy theories being exposed for all but the benefits, non aligned values have regained deeper meaning.

The temptation to politicise everything is enticing. Countries that have been able to resist have done so with a sense of balance. The United States makes it legal for paid but transparent lobbying funded by businesses for business friendly policies. The United Kingdom allows for declared donations by businesses and businessmen to political parties. That's where third world or developing countries have failed.

India's Bharatiya Janata Party shook democratic foundations by launching ejection bonds by which individuals could fund the ejection campaigns. With no accountability or declarations required the move allowed for billions to pour in with large businesses being cleverly veneered. Businesses always play a role in political funding and plush positions are found for the favoured. It's also good for decent, if difficult political decisions when trade bodies are supportive. What isn't good is when such organisations lose the moral height of correcting decisions that go against the interest of general public with more realistic solutions.

Australian trade bodies got together to suggest to the Albanese Labour government that energy companies part with windfall profits through a super tax to be spent on supporting consumer spending. This was in line with a government handout at the time of the 2008 meltdown by the government.

Had the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dhaka been true to their avowed corporate social responsibility promises, they could have, should have suggested concrete point by point details of how to overcome the dire economic stress of consumers. Without consumers there can be no business. These organisations with members located around the country should have understood people's plights. Their networks extend internationally with businesses, chambers and industries. They provide inputs to government budgets, seek relief from international and national setbacks. It follows naturally they reciprocate the government in its time of stress. The deplorable price manipulation of recent months should have seen FBCCI and DCCI up in arms. Nothing emanated. Transport owners enjoyed windfall gains (continuing to do so), edible oil businesses made a killing as did rice millers. They do not react when frustrated ministers expressed helpless at being powerless to do anything to rein in prices. All demerits have exemplary exceptions. Theirs was to pass off benefits of tax and VAT relief.

The one unstructured organisation-Small and Medium Enterprises have lesser baggage on their backs and can speak freely. And speak they did. From policy through licensing, taxation and their very existence they spoke of corruption from top to bottom. They keep the wheels of the economy running and have their noses to ground realities. Working with small capital mostly without banking support, it hurts them more at having to search in their meagre profits to pay out bribes, graft and downright extortion. Dhaka Chamber claims ownership of the SMEs. There's an SME foundation. To this day there are no permanent structures of SME markets. Backward linkage absence doesn't allow for proper and sustained promotion of their products and services. Of the Prime Minister's generous pandemic fiscal package the chunk for SMEs was the most under-utilised. For all the lofty idealistic rhetoric women SME  entrepreneurs continue their unending tale. No help in, assistance or simplification of their loan procedure.

The SMEs have spoken without mincing words. A total revamp of the approach to the SME sector is nothing short of what they want. If that is to be achieved a specialised, top level cell manned by they who understand SMEs and is inclusive of SME representatives is required, not tomorrow but today. The lesser political interference there, the better.

 

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