- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Kerala and statistics

Posted by: Darcy Carter ( UK ) on September 27, 1999 at 01:25:07:

Contributors to this board have sought to provide evidence that socialism can work on the basis of statistics about several socialist states - particularly Kerala in India. In fact, this region has been put forward as an example of some sort of Socialist Eutopia.

Not being too well informed about Kerala, it seemed churlish to dismiss its achievements. I therefore thought I would do some research on this egalitarian paradise...


Delivering the presidential address at the 1994 conference, which was organized at the initiative of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (hereafter CPM), the Party's nonagenarian leader, E.M.S. Namboothiripad said:

"I make a request: let not the praise that scholars shower on Kerala for its achievements divert attention from the intense economic crisis that we face. We are behind other states of India in respect of economic growth, and a solution to this crisis brooks no delay. We can ignore our backwardness in respect of employment and production only at our own peril."

Now that makes interesting reading, doesn't it?

Although Kerala is ahead of otrher Indian states in indicators such as literacy and infant mortality, it is suffering rather badloy in other areas which may shortly make those benefits that it does provide to its citizens untenable. Even in socialist states, hospitals and schools cannot be operated without money.

1.Kerala's per capita income as a percentage of India's declined from 93 percent in 1970-71 to 90 percent in 1980- 81, 73 percent in 1987-88 and 70 percent by the 1990s.

2.Between 1980-81 and 1987-88 Kerala recorded only 1.73 percent in value-added in manufacturing as against the annual compound growth rate of 10.56 percent for all of India. Kerala's share of exports, well above the all- India average in the past, has also been falling: from 17 percent in 1966-67 to less than 5 percent in 1989-90.

3.With less than 4 percent of India's population Kerala accounts for nearly 16 percent of the country's unemployed. In terms of the relative intensity of unemployment (ratio of the state's share of the unemployed in the total unemployed in the country to its population share India's being number one) Kerala's figure of 4.63 is way above that of any other state. The second highest state, Tamil Nadu, had a ratio of only 1.2. In absolute numbers Kerala's unemployed increased from 144,000 in 1965 to 1,879,000 in 1987-88.

4.In 1990-91 there were eighty public enterprises, excluding the state electricity Board and Transport Corporation, accounting for 9.7 percent of the total of 823 enterprises in all of India and 6.7 percent of total investments in these enterprises. But of the eighty, only thirty-two units made a profit, a total of Rs. 370 million. The losses of the other forty-eight units amounted to Rs. 990 million, resulting in a net loss of 620 million to the state. Furthermore, sixty-five units had carried forward losses of Rs. 6,530 million (from 1989-90) and thirty-seven enterprises had negative worth. The most serious issue here is probably not the losses per se, but the lack of accountability. In his 1993 study K. K. George revealed that audits of sixty-three enterprises were in arrears and one of the public enterprises had not completed an audit since 1982-83.

So it seems all may not be well in paradise. According to Indian scholar Joseph Tharamangalam in the January-March 1998 issue of the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars (Volume 30, Number 1).Kerala has been

"saved from such a disaster by the very substantial remittances by Malayalees (those from Kerala) employed outside Kerala especially in the Arabian Gulf. The vast majority of Malayalees employed abroad are in lower-class jobs and are subject to exploitation (e.g., wages and working conditions arbitrarily determined by the employer), racial discrimination (e.g., the open and blatant practice of unequal pay on the basis of color and national origin). The are also denied fundamental human rights such as religious freedom, the right to terminate employment and return home at their choice (they are forced to surrender their passports to their employer), and to organize trade unions. It is ironic that a people who have so valiantly struggled against capitalist exploitation at home, are now knowingly sending their sons and daughters to work abroad under these humiliating conditions. But then what are Kerala's choices, given that its prosperity and high levels of consumption are based on the largesse of international employers and on the ability of societies with different models of development to produce the goods so widely sought after by Malayalees today?"

Makes you wonder why those living in such a desirable state suffer these sorts of conditions in order to work abroad?

He adds

"Basically, Kerala's problem is that it does not and cannot generate enough revenue to finance and maintain its social development, with the result that the state faces progressively worsening deficits. These deficits are not only substantially higher than those of other Indian states, but are different in origin and nature."

It looks like, depsite bringing many temporary benefits to an impoverished people (including the dubious benefit of being educated to a standard at which there is little possibility of finding employment), the socialist experiment in Kerala is more likely to prove the impracticality of socialism rather than the reverse.


Another example used was Burkina Faso. As another contributor pointed out, almost any change in government, given the pitiful state of this country before the socialist Sankara took over, would lead to improvement. The statistics in BF are incredibly depressing (eg - life expectancy of 43.6 years for males, GDP per capita of $160, 38 % of urban and only 5 % of urban population with access to sanitation.) It is still one of the very poorest and most deprived nations on earth and has recently become, effetively, a one party state. Opposition parties have boycotted elections becuase they believe the ruling party are so corrupt that any result will be entirely manufactured.

This just doesn't stand up as an example of scoialism in action. Not only has BF remained desperately poor, it's fledgling democracy has apparently been lost. If this is the socialist blue-print for improving the lives of African people, it seems that they are likely to remain poor for a long time to come. Saying BF has "improved" becuase of socialism is like saying an ant that clims a tree has got nearer to the moon. While a nation remains abjectly poor by even the most modest calculations, it certainly should not be held up as a success of any system of gevernment.


Finally, Namibia. This country has also been named as an example of a comparitively rich and prosperous socialist state. However, according to the CIA

"the majority of Namibia's people live in pronounced poverty because of the great inequality of income distribution"

The CIA also claim that

"Because of their shared democratic and free market values, Namibia and the United States have enjoyed warm bilateral relations. The United States was instrumental in helping Namibia gain independence, and continues to work with Namibia to foster democratic principles. The U.S. Embassy in Windhoek was established shortly after independence. Currently, the United States and Namibia are working together to increase the human resource capacity of previously-disadvantaged Namibians, to promote small private enterprise development, and to improve the education system.

Although most business enterprises in Namibia are privately owned, direct state involvement in the economy takes the form of parastatals. These parastatals are mostly in the postal services, telecommunications, development banking, electricity and water supply, and transport, in addition to agricultural commodity marketing boards. However, the government is actively promoting private sector activities in lieu of parastatals in order to create employment."

If that's socialism, I'd like to know what capitalism is. It is correct that the socialist party is dominant in the parliament, but could this be a "socialist" party in the same way that the UK's governing labour party is socialist (ie Cente-left capitalist)? They certainly don't seem too radical - taking advice on free enterprise from the USA.

I have also discovered that the life expectancy is a lowly 41.48 years.

The statictics i have read in favour of communism are just a huge red-herring. There is simply no socialist country in which any sane person, privelidged to have been born in the West, would ever want to live in.

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