Examining Inequality: How Geography And Gender Stack The Deck For (Or Against) You
Comment of the Day

September 19 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Examining Inequality: How Geography And Gender Stack The Deck For (Or Against) You

This report from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section on India:

There is yet another way that policies designed around the JAM trinity are empowering the poor—by making government more accountable. For example, with the new cooking gas subsidy, government officials in 640 Indian districts receive daily progress reports on PAHAL, including enrollment, cash transfer, and error rates, so they can identify and address problems as soon as they arise.

Various states are also experimenting with ways to proactively solicit citizens’ input whenever they interact with government. In one state, for example, beneficiaries receive an automated call soliciting feedback on the quality of the service: Was the customer treated courteously? Did she receive the benefits she expected? Did she receive them without having to pay a bribe? Negative responses roll over into a human system to generate formal complaints.

On its own, the JAM trinity doesn’t do much. It needs to be paired with smart, pro-poor policies and services built around digital technology. Even then, digitally powered policies and services by themselves won’t end poverty and gender inequality. They need to be accompanied by analog reforms like changing discriminatory laws and policies. When all these pieces come together, though, the status quo can change fast.

Eoin Treacy's view

Inequality is likely to be the defining debate of the next decade. For one group the discussion is about equality of opportunity and allowing each individual the freedom to pursue their creativity to further human development.

For another group it is about protecting the rights of the downtrodden from the overzealous protectionism of the elite. For this group the only answer is redistribution of rewards so everyone can start at a similar level.  

Let’s some names on these groups. The Gates Foundation, Ray Dalio and free market capitals tend to be the first group. Progressives, Elizabeth Warren, Thomas Piketty and “woke” advocates represent the second. 

The free movement of capital, property rights, minority shareholder rights, a free judiciary and an independent press are the foundations on which faith in the financial markets is built. Some of the primary challenges’ investors need to address over the coming decade will be the extent to which these pillars of improving governance are supported in whatever country one is investing in.

India remains a country where standards of governance are improving. Meanwhile the clear risk of left-leaning progressive politics gaining sway over much of North America and Europe represents a significant challenge. The easy conclusion is if Donald Trump’s election was positive for markets, a victory for Elizabeth Warren would have the opposite effect.

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