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Beyond GDP: The economy of well-being

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Beyond GDP: The economy of well-being

Altaf Hussain Haji

All of us have heard about the term ‘standard of living which means all the elements in someone’s life that contribute to their happiness.   Standard of living is a broad term that encompasses many factors including some that are not bought and sold in the market.  The standard of living is an economic opportunity that focuses on basic material factors such as income, gross domestic product (GDP), life expectancy, etc.  It is closely related to the quality of life, which can also explore factors such as economic and political stability, political and religious freedom, environmental quality, climate, and safety. In the present scenario, economic growth is commonly taken to mean a sustained increase in real GDP per capita and somehow linked with social, economic, and environmental growth. There are a lot of challenges today regarding growth and standard of living.

To solve the social, economic, and environmental challenges faced today by governments and other institutions around the world that need to embrace new ways of thinking and actively engage in widespread systems innovation to make real progress toward a healthier and more prosperous life.

The economy of well-being highlights the need for putting people at the centre of policy. It is important to move away from an attitude of “grow first, redistribute and clean up later”, towards a growth model that is equitable and sustainable from the outset.

The well-being economy encompasses a diverse array of ideas and actions aimed at advancing social well-being through governance structures that support peaceful co-existence and meet basic human needs. A well-being economy provides people with equal opportunities for advancement, a sense of social inclusion, and stability—all of which contribute to human resilience and, importantly, sustains and supports harmony with the natural world. It aims to serve people and communities first and foremost and offers a promising path toward greater social well-being and environmental health. The current economic system s become addicted to “growth at all costs”, as measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) but ignores the wellbeing of the individuals at all levels of development. Instead, we need an economic system that takes a preventive approach to social and environmental challenges to ensure that the kinds of related, follow-on problems of the standard of living or a person’s happiness.

The level of GDP per capita, for instance, captures some of what we mean by the term standard of living, as illustrated by the fact that most of the migration in the world involves people who are moving from countries with relatively low GDP per capita to countries with relatively high GDP per capita.

The GDP is a limited tool for measuring the standard of living because many factors that contribute to people’s happiness are not bought and sold. The GDP includes what is spent on environmental protection, healthcare, and education, but it does not include actual levels of environmental cleanliness, health, and learning. GDP includes the cost of buying pollution-control equipment, but it does not address whether the air and water are cleaner or dirtier. GDP includes spending on medical care, but it does not address whether life expectancy or infant mortality have risen or fallen. Similarly, GDP counts spending on education, but it does not address directly how much of the population can read, write, or do basic mathematics.

The OECD is one such organization, which has been working on the measurement of well-being beyond GDP since the 1970s and has seen the concept of well-being develop from an interesting side-note into a well-established agenda for policy. As we know that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is an international organization that works to build better policies for better lives.  The main goal is to shape policies that foster prosperity, equality, opportunity and well-being for all at the international level. The OECD’s Well-Being Framework has further developed the concept by providing us with a clear definition and rigorous analytical basis. The Framework for Policy Action on Inclusive Growth has helped identify the channels through which governments can promote greater well-being and sustainable economic growth for all their citizens.

The economy of well-being highlights the need for putting people at the centre of policy. It is important to move away from an attitude of “grow first, redistribute and clean up later”, towards a growth model that is equitable and sustainable from the outset.

An economy of well-being has four main pillars. The first pillar is education and skills. Skills are the most important driver of long-term economic growth. The policy can help leverage the benefits of education. For example, higher attendance in pre-primary education, greater autonomy of schools, reduced gaps between academic and vocational branches of education and higher funding for tertiary education can all boost human capital, while also improving the efficiency of education systems. At the same time reducing inequalities of access and opportunity at school is essential to promote better educational outcomes, as countries with high levels of inequality in education and skills also record lower average educational performance.

The second pillar is health. Evidence shows that good health fuels economic growth, productivity and individual earnings. Good health is also a key factor for people’s well-being. It allows them to invest in education and skills, access quality jobs and enjoy a better quality of life.   It has seen that increased spending has driven much of the improvement in health outcomes, but we need to go beyond. This means looking at the range of services covered by primary healthcare, as well as addressing new or persistent risk factors. Reducing inequalities of access is also essential to promote better health outcomes, as the proportion of people in poor health weighs heavily on key health indicators. Moreover, health inequalities are often stratified along economic, educational or occupational lines. For instance, unmet care needs are substantially higher for low-income groups.

The third pillar is social protection and redistribution. Both play an important role in reducing economic volatility and fostering resilience. They also prevent inequality today from translating into inequality of opportunities for the next generation. Recent OECD research confirms that lower inequality is associated with higher GDP growth.  Combining income-support schemes with active labour market policies provides effective protection and supports employment. Promoting more progressive tax and benefit systems can help countries promote equality of opportunity and social mobility. Social protection systems also need to adapt to a changing world of work, notably by improving coverage for non-standard workers, and to evolving social risks, notably the increasing prevalence of lone-parents and frail elderly.

The fourth pillar is gender equality. Raising women’s employment and hours worked can deliver productivity gains and higher GDP growth. It can also reduce income inequality, strengthen resilience and consolidate the middle class.

There are many other dimensions to an economy of well-being, for instance, the quality of housing and infrastructures, as well as the equitable access to those; and of course the quality of the environment that significantly affects health outcomes, especially among the poorest.

The fact that GDP per capita does not fully capture the broader idea of the standard of living has led to a concern that the increase in GDP over time is illusionary. It is theoretically possible that while GDP is rising, the standard of living could be falling if human health, environmental cleanliness, and other factors that are not included in GDP are worsening. Fortunately, this fear appears to be overstated.

Since 1970, the air and water in the United States have generally been getting cleaner. New technologies have been developed for entertainment, travel, information, and health. A much wider variety of basic products like food and clothing is available today than several decades ago. GDP does not capture leisure, health, a cleaner environment, the possibilities created by new technology, or an increase in variety. Ignoring these factors, GDP would tend to overstate the true rise in the standard of living.

At the last to mention here, that during COVID19 pandemic in the whole world regarding health and well-being. The pandemic affects badly the standard of living due to the poor health system at every level and is continued to create many hurdles in the processes of wellbeing. It is difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle when we are in the middle of a crisis like this. The uncertainty and worries related to finances, childcare, elderly parents, and job security disrupt our routines, our lifestyles and mental health. The uncertainty about the future, the ceaseless news coverage and a constant social media-driven flood of messages can increase our sense of anxiety. It is also important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and get back into a routine at this movement. This also showed how important is wellbeing as compared to gross domestic product nowadays.

Altaf Hussain Haji, ISS, is Deputy Director General National Statistical Office, Shimla. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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Women shaping informal sector in Kashmir

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Women shaping informal sector

Dhaar Mehak M

 The informal sector is defined as the unregistered part of an economy. In a traditional economy, it is assumed that every business entity is formally registered with the government. A proper registration of a business unit is associated with a number of economic, political and social factors. All the registered units to begin with are enumerated in the industrial census. It keeps the government and policy makers informed about the number and nature of the units. The economic and industrial policies are made and shaped in light of these numbers. Social welfare is decided based on the outcomes coming from these registered units. And the long run industrial and economic planning is carried systematically based on information and evidence from the ground.

Quite contrary to this established smooth channel of economic growth and transition, the developing and under-developed parts of the world have been reflecting self-curated unique trends. First of all, the formal sector has not been able to expand as expected. This has led to limited employment opportunities coming from this sector to the ever-increasing populations and youth bulges. As an instinct to survive, people are forced to find some or other kind of employment. This has led to the creation of and the growth of the informal sector across these pockets of the world. The case of India is one of the fundamental ones. The Indian economy is characterized as having one of the most unique and large informal sectors across the world. 80% to 85% Indian population is estimated to be employed directly and indirectly in the informal sector.

Empirics show that Jammu and Kashmir has reflected growth in the informal sector over time. On the eve of the creation of the welfare state in the region headed by Sheikh M Abdullah, a socialistic model of development was brought into practice. It was called, ‘The Naya Kashmir Manifesto’. Among other things, one of the main agendas of the manifesto was to set in place a public sector-led industrialization process in J&K. As such, all the industries established under the Naya Kashmir Manifesto are a-priori classified as the formal sector firms. The political instability and fragility in the region kept on increasing and the focus of the government as predicted by theory and validated by practice shifted to peace restoration activities. This gave a back-lash to the public sector lead industrialization process in the region.

Steadily people began to look for alternative means of livelihood and subsistence. This set in place the informal sector across all the pockets of the region. The instability during the decades of 1990s, followed by various political and natural shocks during the 2000s made people realize that each person must be skilful and must practice the same in order to keep on bringing in sustenance money. The Kashmir division is particularly known to be diversified in various types of craft. From Ari work, through Tilla designing, people have bene utilising their skills to cash in some money. The wood-carving, Pashmina making and many distinct skills indigenous to Kashmir have been practiced in the informal sector by both men and women over time.

Of late there has been an Information Technology boom. The 2000 AD has seen a drastic revolutionising of the world through the spread of the World Wide Web. Mobile phone penetration has made the world an accessible global village. The social media applications of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp have empowered people in a number of ways. People started off with sharing their pictures and highlighting their skills online on social media platforms. On receiving appreciation their confidence rose and soon people started to ask if some of their skills could be shared or used.

These platforms have greatly affected the economic well-being of the women located across various regions of Kashmir. Initially, women from different ages and social backgrounds strolled these platforms. Some of them enhanced their existing skills or learnt new ones online. This was followed by trying a hand at the commercialisation of the same, which in many cases has yielded a positive response. There are a number of examples that can be quoted as brief case studies in the present article.

The Instagram page by the handle of @makeupshakeupbynidanazir evolved over time. Nida has always been fond of make-up and lipsticks. As a child she always bought makeup and accessories from her pocket money. Applied the same on her dolls, herself, her cousins and her mother and grandmother occasionally. Over time she mastered the skill. From turning pages of magazines to learning online through YouTube etc. her skills enhanced steadily. It was her friend’s engagement and Nida offered to do her make-up. The outcomes were really appreciable. The friends decided to open up on online platform to display her make-up skills. The bookings soon followed and today Nida is a known name in the local make-up industry.

Saba married a doctor who lived in Saudi Arabia. Soon after her marriage, she moved to KSA with her husband. She always liked chocolates and began exploring the chocolates of KSA. Later in 2016, she shifted back to Kashmir with her kids. The kids and herself started missing the unique chocolates of KSA. One day Saba decided to curate her own. The chocolates turned out to be good. She shared the same with her sister and cousins. She was influenced to upload the same on Instagram. Steadily, the popularity of her chocolates grew and orders started to flow in. Today Saba is an established name in the curated and customized local chocolate industry.

There are innumerable other success stories which will be discussed steadily. But the underlying point of the present article is that the informal sector in Kashmir has been growing ever since the formal industrial set-up took a back-set during 1950s. Initially it was hidden and the returns were menial or limited. However, with the growth of the internet boom the women in the region have been able to harness the benefits and the informal sector has been growing steadily and sustainably. In Kashmir, this sector can be directly related to women’s empowerment and is expected to increase steadily over time.

 

The author teaches at the Department of Economics, Islamic University of Science and Technology, J&K and can be reached at [email protected]

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Rural mart inaugurated under NABARD scheme

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Rural mart inaugurated under NABARD

BK NEWS

Shopian, Sept 20: National Bank for Agriculture & Rural Development (NABARD) has collaborated with National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) for extending the grant support to SHGs promoted by NRLM for setting up rural marts. These marts aim to promote and provide a platform for women’s self-help groups to market their handmade products.

The rural mart was inaugurated on 20 Sept 2022, at Shopian

Dr AK Sood, CGM NABARD J&K, SSP Shopian Tanushree, NRLM Reyaz Ahmad, and ADDC Shopian, Manzoor Hussain were present for the inauguration ceremony.

The mart will give numerous SHGs an opportunity to sell their homemade goods, including apparel, handloom and handicraft products, homemade food items, dry fruits, and more.
For a period of three years, NABARD has agreed to commit Rs 4.79 lakh as financial support for each rural market. NABARD will pay for the components, such as shop rent, salesman salaries, marketing costs, and other miscellaneous expenses.

Dr Sood, CGM NABARD, urged the female SHG members to use the mart as an opportunity for economic growth and to guarantee the continuity, quality, and quantity of local goods for both locals and tourists.
Additional Mission Director NRLM commended SHGs for taking such a unique initiative in the district.

“Rural mart to be run by female SHGs is the first step towards women empowerment in the district,” said Tanushree, SSP Shopian

Members of various SHGs from the district attended the event. Deputy General Manager NABARD Surinder Singh, District Development Manager NABARD Rouf Zargar, DPMs NRLM Uzma Mehraj and Irfan were also present on the occasion.

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Economy

Wood shortage, high prices due to Russia-Ukraine war affect timber business in Kashmir

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Wood Shortage high prices

Malik Nisar

Srinagar: Every summer Altaf Ahmad 35, a small timber trader from north Kashmir Baramulla district used to be busy with his timber business, but this year instead of attending to customers at his unit, Altaf spends his day playing cricket in his village outskirts. The war in far-off lands has affected his business badly.

The prices of KD Wood mostly imported from Russia and Ukraine have soared many times, while the supply had dwindled.

“The Russia-Ukraine war has badly hit our timber business in Kashmir. This is the construction season here, we were expecting our business will double as there was lockdown from the past two seasons because of Covid19, but due to the war we are on the verge of complete breakdown this season too,” said Altaf Ahmad.

Altaf believes that their business is at a halt not only because of less supply of timber but also due to the less demand due to price rises as customers are reluctant to purchase at higher rates.

“There is the increase of 20% to 50% in the rates that has abruptly brought down the demand because customers are unable to purchase on such higher rates. We used to earn a good profit, but are presently on destruction mode where survival seems very much difficult,” said Altaf

Russia is one of the highest timber suppliers in the world and ranks as the seventh biggest exporter of forest products worldwide, which accounts for 22% of the global trade. And it clearly shows that the global market will continuously impact as long the Russia-Ukraine war continues. A country like China, which is in support of Russia in the conflict, has also been affected by limited trade sanctions as it depends on the import of timber, logs, and wood chips even for their domestic use.

Halted construction work

For Sajad, who was planning to complete the pending works of his newly built house and get married next year, the Russia- Ukraine conflict has brought a tsunami of hopelessness because the sudden surge in the timber rates has halted his plans of construction work and marriage back home, he feels it is unbearable to bear all the expenses in such a tough situation where other commodities all already in the surge.

Wood Shortage high prices

“The sudden increase in timber rates halted all my construction works because, I was expected to purchase timber say for example for Rs 1 lakh, now it will cost me Rs 1.5 lakhs an increase of fifty thousand. Now, I am too confused about whether to do it or not,” said Sajad Ahmad from the Bemina area of Srinagar.

 Showkat Ahmad another timber trader from North Kashmir says Ukraine timber was mostly used in Kashmir for the past couple of years as compared to Russian and German timber because Ukraine timber was available at cheaper rates. With a war going on in Ukraine the demand for German and Russia will arise, but it’s going very much costlier for customers.

“People prefer Ukraine timber because it’s easily affordable for them in contrast with German and Russian timber due to its low cost. The war in Ukraine has put everyone both (buyer and seller) in a catch22 situation because one doesn’t know what’s going to happen next,” says Showkat Ahmad who deals with the timber business for the past decade.

Business Kashmir visited various units in central and north Kashmir among them was Changa Timber Gallery, Sopore.

“I am into this business for the last one year but, I think this kind of situation will only benefit those dealers who have piles of stock available in the stores because they can increase rates on that stock which they have purchased at low rates earlier and a trader like me will go more into loss due to these unprecedented rates who’s new into this business and has very much less stock available at times,” says Aijaz Ahmad Changa, a 30-year-old BCom graduate.

Kashmiri Timber Traders mostly purchase timber from Gujarat and in Gujarat, they directly import the timber from Russia, Ukraine, and Germany. Business Kashmir contacted Singla Timbers Private Limited one of the oldest timber factories in Mithirhar, Gandhidham Gujarat who are in this business since 1946.

“The whole world is witnessing inflation it will remain for some time maybe for another year and there is also less supply of timber from the last few months because of that we are witnessing an increase in the rates of timber,” says Pulkit Singla director Singla Timbers.

“Kashmiri traders prefer Ukraine timber because of low price, but at the same time Ukraine timber also differs in quality in comparison to others.”

He says the lack of local wood production forces people to buy imported wood.

“India only imports 2% of the world produced timber. The local timber in India is not of that quality and one has gone through a long process before getting its access. The forests are like agricultural fields for countries like Russia and Ukraine, they cut the trees and do the plantation of it again and again but, in India, that thing is lacking. It’s also because of the weather,” he said.

Altaf and other timber traders in Kashmir are now waiting and praying for the end of the war in Ukraine so that their business will see that charm again.

“I only want the war in Ukraine to end, so that our miseries will also end,” concluded Altaf.

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