Dimensions of Poverty and Happiness in Economy

Anumeha Verma
Published: March 2018

Are we any closer to bridging the divide between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’? The conference organized by the Department of Economics tried to find answers.

The Department of Economics, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Jain University in collaboration with Ecumenical Christian Centre (ECC) organized an international conference on Dimensions of Poverty and Happiness in Economy in September at the Ecumenical Christian Centre, Whitefield, Bengaluru.

The conference provided a platform to investigate the nature and the different causes of wealth that affect the happiness of people, institutions and economy and also triggered a debate about the status of inequality in India where the benefits of increased economic growth have not been spread over to all the classes.

Dr. Xavier V.K, Professor at Jain University presented an overview of multiple models to drive the economy from short-run fluctuations towards sustainable long-term equilibria for growth, development and happiness. “Although wealth has trebled over the past 50 years, the well being of the people has been neglected. India is a country with the highest inequality gap between the growth of the top 1 percent and growth of the full population,” he said.

Dr. Liguino Bruni, Professor of Economics, Lumsa University, Rome and at Sophia University of Loppiano, Florence in his keynote address said that only in the last decade or two have economists shown an interest in building models for happiness. He said these models are differently hypothesized compared to those of neoclassical economists who discuss maximization strategy using the assumption of rationality. “There is no reason to continue economic modelling based on a priori assumptions that do not help to understand and predict simple economic actions and choices,” Dr. Bruni said. According to him, there has been a decline in the GDP growth rate for Asia as compared to Western Europe, adding that the World Happiness Report 2017 had ranked India 122 out of 155 countries.

The concept of happiness was discussed from Aristotelian times during the conference. Dr. Bruni spoke of how the modern political economy use wealth as an objective indicator of happiness – if people have more wealth, they are considered to be happier than the rest. “Happiness was included as a subject of analysis in Economics only recently,” he said. Providing examples, explanations and proof, Dr. Bruni showed that happiness of an individual depends upon consumption and relational goods. Dr. Mathew Chandrankunnel, Director of ECC, in his welcome address stressed on the need to alleviate inequality, poverty and injustice that prevail in society.

The presidential address was delivered by Ms. Caroline Busuttil, Chartered Accountant at Kemia Tau, Bombay Head and a member of the Focolare Movement. She said the Movement, which started at the end of the Second World War aims at uniting the world through mutual love and respect. Ms. Busuttil is also a member of a project called The Economy of Communion, which was developed in 1991. The project aims at alleviating poverty through social welfare.

Delivering the inaugural address, Mr. Bala Subhramanyan, Birla Corporate Social Responsibility Project Head, Mysore spoke about how important it is to give back to the society and why being a good human being should be the goal of every person.

More than 200 delegates from India and abroad attended the conference. The participants examined and analyzed the growth trajectories of diverse economies that are moving towards models to search for the welfare and happiness criteria.To delve deeper into the analysis of the dimensions of happiness and human welfare, the following topics and those appropriate to the broad theme of the conference were discussed: Capability Building for Happiness; Corporate Social Responsibility; Corruption, Greed and Terrorism; Dimensions of Poverty and Happiness; Economics of Leisure and Happiness; Endurance and Trust for Progress; Equity, Inclusion and Sustainability; Faster, Sustainable and More Inclusive Growth; Governance and Performance Indicators; Honesty, Integrity and Ethics; Indebtedness and Stress; New Indicators of Poverty and Happiness; Religion and Knowledge Systems; The State and Exit Conundrum; and Utility, Pleasure and Happiness.

The conference was attended by Dr. G.K Karanth, Professor of Sociology, and former Chairman of Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bengaluru; Dr. S. Muraleedharan, Professor of Economics, Research Centre, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam; Dr. Martin Patrick, Professor of Economics and Research Supervisor, Research Centre, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam; Dr. Vishak Verma, Professor of Economics and Principal (Rtd.), Research Centre, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam; and Dr. Abdul Aziz, Honorary Professor of Economics, National Law School of India University, Bengaluru. Dr. Ashok Alur, Director, University of Horticultural Sciences, Bagalkot delivered the valedictory address.

 - Anumeha Verma is at present working with Jain University and believes that strategic communication plays a major role in solving development issues.