February 28, 2022
Energy, Climate and Structural Change
By Nitin Desai
Contributions to Indian Sociology (2021): 1–24 SAGE Publications
The study of human history suggests that the sources of the energy used to sustain production and consumption are the defining determinants of the productive structure, and by implication of the social structure. This article assesses the economic and sociopolitical changes that one can expect because of the major changes in energy sources required to tackle the threat of global warming. It spells out what we know at present about the risks of climate change arising from global warming, how they are being addressed at present and how the measures that are contemplated at present to cope with the threat of climate change will transform the global energy economy and why this makes possible a substantially more decentralised economy. But it also qualifies this vision and deals with the hurdles that will be faced in the structural transition.
The theme of the address is the relevance of nationalism in the globalising world of today. The focus is on the global economy and ecology, but with an initial narration of the history of nationalism and globalisation and the spot they have brought us to as of now.
March 13, 2018
Work and Welfare
By Nitin Desai
Indian Journal of Labour Economics, 2018
The extent to which the growth process delivers employment on the scale needed to absorb the increase in the labour force and the manner in which the operations of the labour market and the capital market distribute the fruits of growth between workers, employers and owners of capital is a crucial factor in the state of welfare of the population. Hence, what follows explores the links between employment and two key objectives of development—growth and equity.
This paper is about the looming water crisis in India as a scarce and threatened resource has to meet rising demand. The crisis that is looming in India’s water systems is not just one of demand supply imbalance. It is crisis that is the product of short-term considerations dominating political discourse and economic policy.
A brief history of the diplomatic dynamics of the climate negotiations
The paper was presented at e Indira Gandhi Conference2010. There is a certain parallelism between the concept of social democracy and that of sustainable development. Justice is at the core of both concepts with the first focussing on justice here and now and the second on inter-generational equity. Thepaper explores the conceptual links, and the political and programmatic implications of his connection.
This address was about how the clash of environment and development concerns played out in the Brundtland Commission and the 1992 Rio Conference.The author was personally involved with this quite intimately as the Senior Economic Adviser to the Brundtland Commission, as the Deputy Secretary General of the Rio Summit of 1992, as the UN Under Secretary General in charge of the Commission on Sustainable Development and as the Secretary General of the World Summit on Sustainable Development of 2002.
A short history of the orientation of planning in India provides a basis for defining the role of planning in a liberalised economy
This paper explores the geopolitics of climate change by examining the current state of climate diplomacy, the geopolitical;itics of mitigation actions that may be undertaken and the consequences of the climate change that is inevitable.
Ecological interdependence involves uncertainty, long-range cause and effect relationships, thresholds and discontinuities, a scale of impact that is reaching limits in some areas, a close connection with the processes of economic globalisation, a geography of impact that cuts across national jurisdictions and an incidence of impact that reflects power relations. For all of these reasons it requires a qualitatively different form of global response.This paper looks at the challenge of environmental governance from four distinct but related perspectives-the ecological, the economic, the ethical and the decision making challenges that need to be addressed by the governance mechanism
The question this paper asks is whether the institutions and the mechanisms for coordinating national actions are adequate for the challenge of sustainable development. The immediate answer is obvious-they are not because the world is not any closer to the path of sustainability than when we started this journey forty years ago. Yes there is some advance in awareness amongst citizens, corporations and governments. There are some hopeful signs of change in the energy and material intensity of production and in green consumerism. But the world is still very far from accepting the fundamental changes in production and consumption that sustainable development requires. The paper lays out the changes required for addressing these shortcomings.
What is the principal challenge facing humanity in the twenty-first century? Is it the challenge of lifting billions out of poverty into a life of dignity? Or is it one of ensuring that we do not transgress the boundaries beyond which the risks of cata- strophic environmental change are unacceptably large? In my view the word ‘or’ in the previous question is misleading. The two challenges are now so connected that coping with one requires that we cope also with the other. That is what sustainable development is all about – how poverty eradication and environmental protection can be mutually supportive.
The links between the demographic dividend and growth have been examined by researchers by looking at the experience of developing countriesThis paper explores this argument and see whether the expected changes in India’s population size and structure will create a supply-side potential and the policy measures required for realising this.
India is at the cusp of a major transition. Within a generation a society predominantly of low income rural agriculturists will become one of middle income, urban, industrial and service workers. The absolute size of the rural population will start declining in a decade or so and a massive occupational and locational shift will move a 100 million people from rural and agricultural work to factories and service establishments in cities. There are other transitions that will accompany this. One is the so called demographic dividend - the bulge in working age population in the North. The South on the other hand will see a rising proportion of aged retirees from the work force and face labour shortages, which are already evident in current migration trends. All this will happen in a global environment where new technologies that replace skilled labour with computer controlled machines will dull the edge of comparative advantage of low cost labour. This paper outlines an agenda for development focussing on shifting the focus of growth to the North, ensuring high growth in industry and services, promoting an energy transition,coping with the urban challenge, establishing a structured social security system, conserving the environment and reforming politics
The optimism about growth prospects of the Indian economy rests to a large degree on the acceleration in growth seen since 1980 and even more so since 2003-04. Hence, the first part of the paper reviews the growth record of the economy since 1950, the reasons that underlie the acceleration and the prospects at present. The case for more rapid growth also rests to some extent on a comparision with other developing countries, particularly with some fast growing economies in Asia. Hence, the second part deals with some international comparisons. The third part draws some lessons from this review of the past and tries to highlight some of the key conditions for sustaining high growth over long periods. The paper ends with a discussion in the last part of what India would be like if we were to succeed
Asia is a geographical expression rather than a cultural construct. It has four very different ecosystems-the hot deserts to the West, the cold wastes in the North, the grasslands in the centre and the well watered areas in the South and East of the continent. The peoples who populate these ecosystems do not even have an indigenous word for this continent and often connect more with others than with fellow Asians. West Asia for instance has stronger cultural connections with North Africa and the Mediterranean world than with civilizations to its east. Central Asia, that waiting room for tribes on the move, shares its Islamic ethos with West Asia. Though both of these regions have impinged on the Sinic and Indic civilisations to their east, their face is turned towards the west. This article is really about Monsoon Asia, the area east of the Indus and the Central Asian highlands and south of Mongolia. This region, whose ecology is defined by the seasonal monsoon winds that bear beneficent rain, is home to more than half of humanity, where two long-lasting civilizations, the Chinese and the Indian, have held sway for millennia and have provided a matrix for cultural interaction. It is a region whose cultural unity is not defined by a religion as is the case in West Asia, or Central Asia or Europe and a syncretic tolerance of diverse beliefs is a characteristic but threatened feature of its societies. The Resurgence of Monsoon Asia Monsoon Asia was the dominant part of the world economy for the greater part of the second millennium. Right up to the early nineteenth century, Asia accounted for 60-70 per cent of world GDP. Europe had little that it could export and its purchases of spices, silks and cotton were financed largely through the flows of silver that it obtained from the Americas. The change comes with the industrial revolution and the outward expansion of Europe after the eighteenth century and by the middle of the twentieth century most of Asia (with perhaps Japan as the only exception) fell way behind the civilizations of Europe and its American off shoots. But the narrative turns thereafter and the past several decades have seen a steady expansion of the Asian economies. The resurgence of Monsoon Asia will surely be the lead story in any future history of our times. The story begins with the quick recovery of Japan after the end of the war and its rapid growth till the " oil shoku " of 1973. Hong Kong, to which much of China's capital had fled after the revolution, followed suit with a rigorously laissez-faire capitalist path. South Korea and Taiwan began their break-out from poverty around the early sixties and Singapore and South East Asia a little later. With very high growth rates sustained over 20-30 years these countries leap-frogged into middle and even high income status.
Asian countries differ greatly in the options available and the constraints that bind their energy prospects. West and North-West Asia are energy rich with huge reserves of oil and gas in the Gulf region and in the Central Asian “stans”. The part of Asia which lies to the East and South of these areas, call it Monsoon Asia for convenience, is energy poor, particularly in petroleum resources. Hence to speak about ‘Asian’ imperatives when it comes to energy and climate change is misleading. In any case ‘Asia’ is only a geographical expression and, as an idea, has played only a minor role, if any, in shaping geo-political perceptions in the region. This contribution focuses mainly on energy options in Monsoon Asia, particularly India and China
Presents the history of and the case for the participation of NGOs and civil society in the UN with an elaboration od the multistakeholder approach of the Internet Governance Forum.
October 01, 2007
By Nitin Desai
Desai Nitin, ‘Sustainable Development’ in The Oxford Companion to Economics in India ed. by Kaushik Basu, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2007
Conceptual piece written for The Oxford Companion to Economics in India
June 01, 2005
The Monterrey Consensus
By Nitin Desai
Irrelevant or Indispensable? The United Nations in the Twenty-first Century, Paul Heinbecker, editor, and Patricia Goff, editor, Wilfred Laurier University Press, June 2005
The International Conference on Finance for Development hosted by Mexico at Monterrey in March 2002 came after nearly two decades of contention between the North and the South on macro economic issues in the UN and elsewhere. Ever since President Ronald Reagan had delivered his stark message at the North-South Summit held at Cancun, Mexico in 1981, the developed world did not see global finance as a matter for North-South negotiation. The change came from three things – the consciousness of interdependence created by the financial crises of 1997-98, the strong support from several donor countries for the Millennium Development Goals and the concerns about alienation that came with the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The Monterrey Consensus was reached because the UN managed to put together a credible process that used the political space created by these events.
Economic, social and environmental factors can be looked at as the cause of conflict, as conditions that shape the direction and duration of conflict and as consequences of conflict. It is important to keep these dimensions of relevance in mind as they have different implications for policy and institutional development. Thus a dispute over natural resources could be the cause of a conflict, trade in natural resources may provide the resources to fuel a conflict or conflict may disrupt the paths of trade. The paper analyses economic instruments from these three perspectives
June 01, 2002
Global ethics in a plural world
By Nitin Desai
Candles in the Dark, A New Spirit for a Plural World, ed. Barbara Sundberg Baudot, New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm’s College, Manchester, New Hampshire, USA in association with the University of Washington Press, Seattle and London, 2002
Nationalism, democracy and the market economy are the three ideas that have dominated the political and economic history of our times. They form the basis for a social philosophy that holds the nation-state to be the most appropriate expression of political sovereignty. They require this sovereignty to be exercised through representative democracy, the rule of law, free speech, the protection of individual rights and perhaps, secularism in mundane matters. This school of thought argues for a market economy, with modest public interventions, as the most workable form of economic organisation. It is a philosophy which has been challenged at many times in the past, most notably by imperialism with respect to the first element, by fascism with respect to democracy and by communism with respect to the market economy. Imperialism and fascism were no longer influential as ideologies after the Second World War and, after the collapse of communism in Europe in the late eighties, there was a sense that we had come to a defining moment-the phrase used was "the end of history" 2. From this point on, it was argued, the world could be put on auto-pilot, ideological differences were at an end, and it was just a question of the gradual extension of market economy and liberal democracy to the rest of the world. Since then there has been a reaction to this ideology, a growing recognition that it has not delivered even in terms of its own objectives and that it has not given people the freedom or the equality that it promises. We see the persistence of poverty, homelessness and marginalization; the phenomenon of growing unemployment, the spread of deviant criminal behaviour including drug abuse and trafficking; the horrors of ethnic violence and the obscenity of ethnic cleansing. These factors have shown the limitations of an ideology which many thought was going to lead to a convergence of the world system to some Kantian ideal.
The first note on sustainable development placed before the members of the World Commission on Environment and Development (The Brundtland Commission) at their Ottawa meeting in 1986. It also includes marginal notes on changes requested by the Commissioners