“I’ve successfully privatized world peace. What more do you want ”
When Robert Downy Jr.’s character Tony Stark looks at the American senate and delivers this with such panache, people probably clapped for the witticism. Many probably failed to notice how profound this is. Lots of the development in human history came about not because the Government put its back to it but because private sector wanted to make money off it. Distasteful, you say? No, this is what you call ‘providing an incentive’.
Many of you have probably read the ‘Freakonomics’ or ‘Superfreakonomics’ where the authors had gathered many examples to show that people respond to incentives – be it emotional (“feeling good”=”charity”) or physical (cash or material). So why not give the private sector an initiative to make things better for the whole while still increasing shareholder value?
My driver’s sister-in-law is 4-years old (yes, its probably a very complicated story with a simple explanation, but I do not know the story and so let us skip that). He had brought the little girl to live with them in Goa as there is no one to take care of the child in Bihar (a state in North India). This girl is the same age as my daughter and I was ready to help them with her education. When I asked him why she is not in school yet, if it was the money, he told me that it was because she does not have a birth certificate. There is no proof on paper that this child exists – she is standing in front of me, she even touched my feet to get my blessings but she is invisible to all the officials.
I asked my driver S what happened to her birth certificate; he says her parents never registered her birth even though she was born in a hospital. He went on to tell me how the Government actually gives the people money to deliver the babies in the hospital – Rs 1000 for a boy and Rs 2000 for a girl. What happens to the money? The parents usually have to buy sweets and presents for the entire village and then usually nothing is left of the money after a day or two. OK, why doesn’t the hospital register the birth?
“Where, Madam, the parents do not want anything to do with the Government, so they take the money and walk away as quickly as possible and leave the hospital as soon as the doctor/nurse says go”.
I was frustrated.
In another unrelated instance, he told me about this incident of watching cable television and cricket and that their kirana shops (mom-and-pop stores) have cocoa-cola and Surf detergent and Lifebuoy soaps. Now I was stunned. They have cable television and consumer products by multinational companies but no health-care provider that tells them to register births. The reach of Pepsi is longer than the Government of India! This is what gave me the idea that parts of Indian Government should be privatized!
Give Hindustan Unilever and Proctor Gamble and the advertising agencies free-reign in creating public awareness campaigns with their respective products. Put a colorful advertisement on cocoa-cola bottles to raise awareness about how better to drink coke than water which can spread cholera unless and until you boil the water. Every pampers and bottle-feed ad should carry a message on registering the birth of a child. Every biscuit packet should have a healthy baby which has been vaccinated! Come on, people, get creative!
The multinationals spend so much money on charity events – give that money to your advertising agency to pitch a glitzy and glamorous story with a public awareness message in it. And Government of India, give those guys big tax-breaks and cut them more bureaucratic slack! Win-win! And we can finally end the atrociously boring public announcement ads screened before the movies.
What say you?