'Where energy and policy should go is how to accelerate the growth, and not be distracted by these old slogans that really made sense 40 years ago,' said Surjit S. Bhalla, an economist who opposes the employment law.
"The finance minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, made a similar argument in an interview, saying that while an employment guarantee could 'keep the pot boiling once a day,' it would not end poverty. That could be done, he said, only through 7 to 8 percent annual growth and 'real jobs.'"
Then come arguments for EGA:
Mr. Dreze says that even if the poverty-reduction figures are valid, which many economists dispute, the economy would have to grow at a much faster rate than even the most optimistic estimates if it were to truly improve the lot of the poor.
"The way we're going now it is going to take forever to get people to an acceptable living standard," he said.
Even 1 percent of gross domestic product - the expected price tag for the employment law - was a small price to pay for easing hunger, stemming seasonal migration and reducing child labor, he argued.
Thankfully, in spite of the "he said, she said" tone of this first part, Waldman's report does a credible job of describing how things are on the ground. Nothing new to anyone who has been following this issue, though.
Interestingly, Waldman's report discusses both EGA and the mid-day meal scheme (MMS), which has been mandated by the Supreme Court to cover the entire country. She has checked out how the latter works, and needless to say, she has good things and bad things to say about it ("he said, she said" all over again!). What are the good things? "A study by the Center for Social Equity in New Delhi said the program had especially helped retain girls, who are often the first denied schooling in poor families; improved child nutrition; and encouraged mixing among castes".
I too drew a parallel between EGA and MMS in my earlier post in January. The point I made then remains valid today: "I have not seen good arguments against the scheme, only some rants about how it will not work, how our politicians cannot be trusted with it, how we cannot afford it, etc."