How Austere Is Austerity?
How Austere is Austerity?
Mention the word austerity and Greece inadvertently pops up immediately in our mind. The word seems to have stuck to the nation, which is unfortunate. The endless negotiations and failed attempt made by one government and then the other is farcical. Last week as I watched Pope Francis travelling in a Fiat during his Philadelphia visit, making a genuine point towards austerity leading from the front for the cause, when his predecessors have always travelled in a limousine, his move definitely made everyone look up.
He urged eloquently that being ‘poor’ was better than being ‘rich’ and that being blinded by avarice would only increase the gap between the poor and the rich, the developed and the developing. The cause was commendable and so was the speech – heart rendering and genuine. But a few questions remained. Can austerity be imposed in the true sense? Can individuals who have seen the other side of wealth – limousines and larger-than-life amenities give them up just at the behest of bringing more parity for the poor in the rest of the world? The dream of austerity though laudable seems to be a little far-fetched.
The Distant Goal
Like each miss world contestant who chants ‘world peace’ as an answer to impress the judges in the final round, we have seen organizations and governments alike using the word ‘austerity’ and ‘budget-cuts’ liberally without creating any true impact. It is sometimes too obvious that they just pay a lip-service to the word parroting statements with no intentioned effect. For Greece, austerity would bring in more taxes in an already slow economy which has not done enough to create jobs and mounting pressure would just make people poorer than they are already. Sometime back in India the erstwhile ruling party head urged her political party member to follow ‘austerity measures’ which fell flat without any concrete results.
In an organization, like in a nation budget cuts are most felt by those on the lower end of the pyramid. Which brings us back to the question- Is austerity really a solution or the making of a greater problem? Does is serve the purpose for which it is adopted? Yes and No. The answer lies in the intentions. Like most other measures austerity loses its’ depth as the intentions of an effective follow through by everyone is either missing or is never proposed. The core of the solution of ‘austerity’ is not just blindly cutting cost and making ‘being poor’ fashionable again but to create enough opportunities for the ‘poor’ and the ‘developing’ to come up to the mark.