I refer to the leading editorial "Output vs outcomes" (April 13), written by Mr T N Ninan. The distinction made by him between these two terminologies, output and outcome, is actually pedantic. It is not a philosophy book but a party manifesto. Output leads to outcome inevitably. To use the example of Mr Ninan, once a certain number of railway lines are electrified, automatically there will be impact on speed and volume of railway traffic. It does not have to be stated, nor can it be cardinally quantified in advance. The ulitilisation coefficient will vary over time. Similarly, the other example is the number of Jan Dhan accounts. He says that it is the output while the number of transactions is the outcome. I do not agree that it is any different. It is not necessary that there should be more transactions. I have made extensive enquiry with the rickshaw-walas in Delhi as I travel by rickshaw for short distances. Having an account is enough for them. They save about Rs 1,000 per month and that, they say, they will spend for making a house in future or marry their daughter. Having the saving is enough for them as it is even for the middle class.
Next example is of highway construction. It is the output and the resulting outcome will follow in terms of felicitation of trade and industry automatically. One cannot calculate it.
Again, if agriculture has moved from shortage to surplus, as admitted by the author, how can he say that it is a distress story? Food processing and diversification in a capitalistic economy is taken care of by the market forces. Producing surplus is the first step and the utilisation of the surplus is the second step. It will automatically follow, or may be with a helping hand by bank loan. It is certainly not a distress story but a success story.
Sukumar Mukhopadhyay via email
T N Ninan responds:
Sorry, Mr Mukhopadhyay, output does not lead to outcome “inevitably”. Freight traffic has not increased "automatically". The figure for net tonne km has increased at a cumulative rate of less than 1 percentage point per year. Nor have average train speeds increased. Agriculture moving from shortage to surplus is a distress story because supply has overtaken demand, depressing agricultural prices. So increased output has led to lower incomes. Finally, an amateur sample survey of Delhi's rickshaw drivers must yield to the World Bank study which said last year that India leads the world in inactive bank accounts, at 48 per cent — twice the average for developing countries. The reason, said the Bank, is Jan Dhan accounts.
The UN's Sustainable Development Goals are not "a philosophy book" but a global manifesto adopted by the General Assembly. The focus is on outcomes, like No Poverty, Zero Hunger and Quality Education.
Being “pedantic” can be enlightening.
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