Bibek Debroy, Chairman of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister and Member of NITI Aayog on Friday said there had been no change in the amount of tax to GDP people were paying since Chandragupta Maurya’s rule, around two thousand years ago, but that their demands from the government had increased.
He said there was a distinction between government and governance and that citizens needed to take matters into their hands if they wanted to prosper. Debroy was speaking on ‘The Notion of Governance in the Mahabharata, Ramayana and the Puranas’ as part of The Eminent Alumni Lecture Series at Delhi University.
He said Kautilya, the ancient Indian economist, had calculated tax to GDP as 17 per cent, which was the same as what the government got even today as taxes.
“Now consider our demands. We want ten per cent to go to infrastructure, six per cent for education, four per cent to go towards health … whenever we expect government to do anything implicitly there’s a prioritisation of resources, we need to do this, we need to do that. And in terms of prioritisation … most of us will agree on defence and security of the nation, speedy dispute resolution, and correctional law. This is exactly what the Rajan (the virtutous king) did then,” said Debroy.
He said citizens had expectations that the “government should deliver” and be “efficient” but that it could not be done by “waving a magic wand” since the government did not exist in “isolation” but was rather a part of an “ecosystem”.
Debroy said there were many things expected of the government today, that were not done by rulers in ancient times. He said people had “abdicated their responsibility”.
“Today, if the government demands something from the people, there will be howls of protest … Don’t expect government will take care of everything … If we want to change India and want it to be prosperous and want less poverty, it is our collective responsibility. Governance is in the preamble of the constitution which begins with ‘We the People’,” said Debroy.