Non-Economic Factors In India’s Economy: Great Adventures Of Modi Government Seen From Faraway Rome – OpEd


A great Roman emperor Titus Flavio Vespasiano was the initiator of the Flavian dynasty and reigned from 69 AD to 79 AD. They were years of great development of the empire in terms of peace and well-being. The economy flourished as rarely before.

Peasant in the face as well as in the origin, Vespasiano never tried to hide his modest origins and ridiculed those who tried to create him a special past. A very successful general was bored to death in the triumphs that the Romans decreed to him when he returned from victorious campaigns. And he did so many successful campaigns. One of these triumphs lasted so long, and he was so bored, that he declared to his friends, “it is the revenge of my peasant ancestors for having had the bad idea of ​​having accepted the triumph”.

Many Roman emperors (for example Trajan) are remembered for their conquests, others (Adriano, Marco, Antonino) for the great civilization of their customs. But Vespasiano, despite having been the initiator of a dynasty, those of the Flavians, is remembered for a revolution of enormous economic significance that economy history books do not mention: the institution in the Eternal City and everywhere in the empire of toilets.

That’s right. He built so many toilets that they cleaned Rome and other cities. Augustus, as is known, found a city made of bricks and turned it into a marble city. Consuls of the republic built roads that connected Rome to all the most distant places of the empire. Other generals made the first aqueducts that brought water everywhere. Vespasian filled the city with toilets.

Keep in mind that Rome had over one million inhabitants. Never a city had a population that exceeded 20-30 thousand inhabitants: Rome exceeded one million inhabitants. Vespasiano made it hygienically livable. And the economy took advantage of it. the people were so grateful that after two thousand years or so Vespasiano is still the common name used to refer to public toilet.

When one wonders why Rome was at the center of power for over a thousand years while in the modern age empires fall after a few decades, we should focus on a Roman phenomenon that often escapes. Rome developed its power with the military, but kept it based on the immaterial and material infrastructures that were meeting the well-being of all populations. Economy was chief beneficial part it.

Unfortunately the focus on economy has become self-referential. It is screwed on itself, it is self-referenced. But in the long term the true basis of the economy must be sought elsewhere. There is a metaphysics of economics that ultimately presides over the true development of the economy. This metaphysics is expressed with immaterial structures and other peculiar materials that impinge on immaterial aspects.

Examples of intangible infrastructures in Rome were, for example, legal ones: The law became written, which meant that for the first time any citizen could sue the State in any part of the empire. Unthinkable at that time elsewhere, and unfortunately we must add, also unthinkable in most of the planet even today.

Another example. Lawyers could not be paid, they had to defend citizens’ rights for the sake of justice. Free justice for all, was another powerful immaterial infrastructure, and modern bad languages ​​say, why was Cicero rich if he was not paid as a lawyer? Do you want to see that he got paid by the citizens to defend them? Cicero, like all lawyers, did not charge for his lawyer’s activity, it would be the end of his political career, but he developed agricultural land and at the Forum those who wanted him as a lawyer obtained it without having to pay a sestertius.

But besides immaterial structures there were the physical infrastructures that stood out for their peculiarity. Streets, aqueducts and … with the advent of Vespasiano toilets.

This premise to say that in the Indian electoral period, numbers and atmospheres are destined to blend into infinity. When in a couple of months the biggest democracy in the world will have given its verdict on who will govern India for the next few years, we will know if the numbers have imposed their validity or not.

Those available clearly say that the first Indian administration after decades of Congress party government has produced remarkable results. It is difficult to deny. Only atmosphere could change that.

Dr. Rajiv Kumar, a great Indian economist, Vice Chairman of NITI, the body in charge of restructuring the Indian economic machine whose chairman is Prime Minister N. Modi carried out the task assigned to him by the PM more than brilliantly. Average GDP growth of 7% with inflation of 4% reduced to 2.7% in February, are data that speak for themselves. But Kumar in his recent article published in Business Standard lists dozens of incontrovertible data. But for a foreigner it is on that of the immaterial structures and on the peculiarities of some materials that solid roots for an even greater growth of GDP India can be found.

On the level of intangible structures, the Indian Head of Statistics, Sri Pravin Shrivastava officially decided on February 13 that India will be the first country in the world to calculate the National Knowledge Product. The US calculated the first GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in the 1930s. India will calculate the first GDKP (Gross Domestic Knoweldge Product) in 2019. The most intangible but the most decisive of raw materials for the wealth of the country in the Internet Age will be quantified for the first time and this will give the country better budget references to politicians and optimization of capital investments for national and foreign investors. But there are material infrastructures mentioned by Kumar of enormous cultural significance that will have great weight on future India’s economy.

For a foreigner who has been visiting India for years the data that deserve to be cited beyond the traditional ones are the 1.94 lakh rural roads built, the 13.7 million rural houses and above all the 100 million toilets built everywhere. Sometimes it happens when I move from one place to another in the city or I go out of town, I love venturing into rural paths, it’s my hobby, that my driver tells me with satisfaction that this rural road didn’t exist before. New? New. But sometimes he parks at the side of the road and asks me to wait a few minutes. He goes to one of these toilets and when he returns he invariably tells me with pride: Sir, this PM wants India clean. Yeah? Yeah! Sir these toilets were not there before. And he is proud of it, and does his job better. This too is a push to economy.

100 million toilets are an extraordinary datum of civilization and of boosting the economy. Vespasian, greatIndian election general, cleaned the state from his enemies, and made the cities clean. The economy took powerful benefits (less disease, greater physical well-being). And the people were grateful for millennia.

Umberto Sulpasso

Umberto Sulpasso, senior Fellow of Center for Digital Future Annenberg School of Communication, University of Southern California has a Degree in Economics in Italy and MBA from Columbia University. Has been teaching in different countries Economy of Knowledge, and publishing books and directing ecnclopedias. His most recent publication has been Darwinomics where for the first time the model of GDKP was announced.

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