By Dr. D. Dhanuraj*
In the recent times, the most sensational topic in Kerala politics has been that Solar Scam and how it has talked about Sarita Nair (said to be the chief culprit) in the whole scam. As the investigation and the daily media beats progress, it results in banality over what the reality reflects. This reality is nothing but the fundamentals of what led to the alleged scam. Why so many names are dragged to the controversy given their linkages to the scam?
According to Doing Business ranking by the World Bank, India is doing is poorly so that the present and past dispensations in New Delhi started crawling at how to improve the business climate and investment opportunities in India. In the ranking of Doing Business, India is ranked at 134 as per 2014 report. Comparing 'starting a business' in India vs BRIC rank in 2014, India is positioned at 179 well below their counter parts. In the case of Kerala, Kochi was the studying point for the index in 2009 and was ranked 16th out of 17 cities. Elections to the state legislature in 2011 and subsequent government formation led by Oommen Chandy focused more on changing the entrepreneurial and business climate in Kerala. Initiatives like Start Up Village and Smart City were projected towards the direction in which Government wanted to push forward the agenda. Even though there has not been any dramatic change in the business climate in Kerala over the years, it would be interesting to follow the alleged solar scam in this context.
It has been reported that Sarita Nair had approached Chief Minister, many in council of ministers, prominent MPs and MLAs. At the onset, the basic question arises why an entrepreneur should or any person interested in a major business ventureneed to approach CMs and MLAs for establishing the business in Kerala. In establishing a business enterprise, why one need to go to different offices of administration ? - for the proximity and closeness to the corridors of power so that the proposed business gets undue advantage or support from the government. How do we tackle cronyism of this kind? The incident shows the lack of transparency and accountability from the part of the government to ease the doing business opportunities in Kerala. It could be because of lack of information in the public domain regarding various licenses and procedures one has to follow in order to do legal business. This approach has not been the case in this incident as it evidently brackets many in the corridors of the power as the agents and cronies to legitimize the business that is unwarranted in a credible business environment. This incident shows that single window systems and the doing business environment in Kerala is still so putative and prosaic. If the investments expected from the Global Investors Meet (GIM) and Emerging Kerala Meet failed to convert the numbers to tangible business outcomes, the solar scam is the vindictive of the cudgels in the Government systems towards the very essence of entrepreneurship and business.
It is also interesting to introspect Chief Minister’s mass contact program in this respect. Even though, it looks very exciting and of high demeanor, it indicates the failure of the Government administration of higher order. If someone else is complaining about the dominance of PMO in Delhi these days, it is true to the fact that CM’s office is trying to solve even the silliest of the matters that could have been resolved at the local government level. Arguments are also raised at the effectiveness of the administration in not solving many of the complaints nor are they addressing it. The idea of a big government or the government being paternal to every one in the society is dominant at least in the minds of the political leadership and bureaucracy. Instead of minimizing the size of the government and effectuate administrative restructuring ensuring transparency and accountability and decentralization to the local structures. What has been seen is the growth of government wings everywhere. Both, solar scam and the mass contact program reflects how the system works and how did it screw up the tax payers money. In an educated society like that of Kerala, it is intriguing that size of the government is still growing. The administration is still languishing waywardly so that the systems encourages the solar scams and over dependence of the governance at the highest political offices providing avenues for the others to loot.
* The Author is Chairman of CPPR. His views are personal and does not in anyway represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research.