I wish the new-generation private sector banks had shown some concern for customer satisfaction. It has taken several years for the banking regulator to “persuade” these banks to introduce the pass book system. Even after so much delay, “new-gen” banks have come out recently with a half-baked proposal. They wish to give a “clipped file of statements” and not a full-fledged pass book. The way this half-hearted innovation of “clipped statements” will operate is not clear either. What is clear is that this “innovation” will cost them more than the issue of a pass book and their periodic updating. Ordinary customers do understand the profit motive but the overemphasis on costs and not fully meeting the customers’ simple demands gives them a bad image.
Re Niranjan Rajadhyaksha’s “A switch to the fast lane”, Mint, 9 May. First, is the focus on productivity as opposed to efficiency misplaced? What we want is to maximize some weighted measure of current and future economic growth. Would maximizing the instantaneous, incomplete measures of productivity achieve that? Second, the flexibility of capital and labour is important to firms producing the same or a diversified set of products at different sites in the country. When a change of government affects policies, firms must be able to reallocate capital, labour and production. That flexibility is crucial to maximizing efficiency and profits. I am not sure if our managers and board of directors even consider this. Third, and this applies to select industries, the uncertainty and timing of public investments—they get delayed or influenced by election politics—results in suboptimal timing and size of private investments and, at times, financial disasters for the smaller firms. Fourth, government interventions in energy markets (coal linkages, pricing for excess co-generated power fed to the grid, allocation of gas for end-users) affect producers’ daily decisions, as well as their choice of capital equipment.
I read a news report quoting a South Indian textile association member’s complaints of how poor-quality power supply pre-empted purchase of high- productivity machines from Thailand. I suspect many firms are not free to substitute between different forms of energy, raw materials, capital and labour. They are tied to allocations by the government. I am surprised Indian firms do so well in the global arena despite these limitations!
Finally, if it is GDP that we care about, then we need microeconomic experts and production economists, not macroeconomists, at the helm.
—Ganga Prasad G. Rao
Re “Wat’er waste”,Mint, 13 July, you bet we should pay more for water. About 20 litres of the precious commodity gurgles down the drain each time we pull the flush. It will be much worse in a high-rise apartment which, instead of a cistern, has a common water supply, where the valves are regulated to release at least 50-100 litres each time that knob is turned! The latest RO purifier costs Rs15,000—a small price to pay for the family’s health. But, for each litre of purified water, 1.5 litres with the filtered impurities goes down the drain. Does anyone reuse it for mopping, gardening or washing? An estimated four inches of rainfall in Delhi and Mumbai can provide enough water for the basic needs of every citizen in these cities. Alas, we let it go waste. Of course, water harvesting systems cost money. But simply saying we pay our taxes and it is the municipality’s job to install these is unrealistic. If municipal authorities and Jal boards are inefficient, let private firms and other concerned agencies lead. Any conservation scheme will need money. Why should not the user—that is, the “waster”, pay?