A short-sighted and opportunistic decision
IT APPEARS highly implausible that the government has decided to ‘privatise unutilised land of state-owned entities’, as reported in a news item front-paged in New Age on Tuesday, in the good faith of ‘augmenting private investment’. Instead, as the report speculates, with the next national elections round the corner, the decision is probably a bid to grab state property and present it to people loyal to the ruling party and its interests. According to the New Age report, a high-powered committee led by the prime minister’s economic adviser has already been formed to identify unused and additional lands in the possession of state-owned and commercial entities. The government notification in this regard argues that the share of investment to the country’s gross domestic product needs to be raised to 35-40 per cent from the existing 24-25 per cent, and thus the need to attract private investment, which is to come about through the sale of lucrative public land which lie on attractive locations at key points of the capital city and other cities, with good access to transport network. Furthermore, the committee actually has the power to declare an entire land of a state-owned entity surplus, if it wishes to. All this is in fact very disturbing news.
A state operates on the notion that it will grow and develop with time, and therefore must be in possession of resources that will be required in the future. Therefore, it falls upon the managers of a state to possess a vision and foresight of the future direction the country will be taking and what the government will be required to do as the state, its economy, its people, grows. It is in that spirit, one can be sure, that the forefathers of our state had kept in government possession the large amounts of land now in question. As we grow, both economically and population-wise, our government and public service will also grow, and land, unutilised thus far, will thence become a blessing to a land-starved nation like ours. The decision to suddenly forego the possession of such land in fact reflects aptly the short-sightedness with which the incumbents have been ruling the country. It is simply an opportunistic decision.
Property owned by state is property owned by the people, to be safeguarded by elected representatives on behalf of the people, and the party in power has no right to essentially usurp such property on various flimsy excuses such as ‘augmenting private investment.’ How the sale of government land will augment investment without other determinants being also put in place is also not very clear. In the past, privatisation of state property has not always brought natural rewards to the economy, and, instead, has sometimes proved to be a bane for the economy. What appears clear is that there is an ill motive behind this move, and the thinking sections of society should seriously protest against such a blatantly opportunistic and parochial decision.
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