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   Big-box Swindle
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
30 Nov 2011
e on foreign direct investment in ‘big retail’ is driven by a conviction that large chain retailers boost employment and expand the economy. In growing economies like India, big retail is further tagged to lowering of inflation alongside remunerative prices for farmers by elimination of middlemen. It is one political stone that kills many dissenting birds.

The reality is far in contrast to the tunnel view that politicians and planners hold dear. Multi-brand retailers like Wal-Mart squeeze profit out of local communities and load them with numerous hidden societal costs. It is a colonization of the kind that impinges on local self-reliance and dispersed ownership. In broader sense, big retail undermines democratic self-governance.

Big-Box Swindle is by far the most authentic indictment of big retail. In her incisive analysis, Stacy Mitchell has laid bare hidden dimensions of mega-retail proliferation in the United States. Big-box retailers squeeze the middle-class, fuel suburban sprawl, undercut local businesses and strip citizens of an enriched community life.

Using real-life examples from 49 states, Mitchell contends that mega-retailers are fueling many of America’s most pressing social, environmental and economic problems. Studies reveal that communities, where a larger share of the economy is in the hands of locally owned businesses, have lower rates of crime, poverty and infant mortality.

While taking a well-researched dig at big retail, Mitchell also provides inspiring lessons from places that are turning the tide. ‘Buy Local’ and ‘Break the Chain Habit’ campaigns are encouraging local businesses in several states that, taken together, provide a detailed road map to a brighter, prosperous and sustainable future. Across US, two-hundred big retail projects have been halted by such groups since 2000.

Prodigiously researched and lucidly written, Big Box Swindle is a must read for those who draft public policy. Any policy decision that doesn’t take into account the arguments by Stacy Mitchell is likely to be unconvincing and inconclusive.

Big Box Swindle
by Stacy Mitchell
Beacon Press, Boston
318 pages, $15


 
 Other books reviewed by Dr Sudhirendar Sharma
Features > Book Shelf
 
Spoiling Tibet
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

A Journey in the Future of Water
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Yamuna Manifesto
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

 
Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

Lead View
People, Partition and the Pain
By Rina Mukherji
15 Aug 2013

Dr Jayanti Basu's book analyzes the complex feelings of hatred and longing for the homeland that have contributed to shaping the personalities of a generation of people who were forced to ..
Book Shelf

Yamuna Manifesto

A Journey in the Future of Water

Spoiling Tibet

On Western Terrorism
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Carmen Miranda
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