ZAK asked Prof. Dr Surendra Munshi to answer the following questions:
1. Has our need for security grown, or has our perception of danger and uncertainty simply changed?
I think there is ‘more’ of everything: we see more, we are more vulnerable, and we are more under danger. I remember soon after September 11 reading news of the anxiousness from which New Yorkers were suffering, fearing another round of attacks. I read news of retaliatory attacks in Afghanistan as well. It was during this charged atmosphere when aerial bombing in Afghanistan was to begin any time that I saw a picture that appeared in newspapers of a carefree baker in Kabul making his local breads. It was business as usual for him. This made me think that there was a perceptible difference in the attitude of the baker in Kabul and the people living in New York. For him, danger – not security – was routine, unlike for New Yorkers. Dangers and uncertainties of different kinds have touched persons long unused to them.
2. To what extent are the interdependencies among individual risks increasing? Can a domino effect be seen here?
Dangers and uncertainties are connected, more than ever before at a global level. I remember going to buy vegetables in Calcutta some time soon after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. When I asked the vegetable seller why he was asking an exorbitant price for potatoes, he asked me in turn whether I knew of the invasion of Kuwait. On my telling him that I did but I did not see the connection, he explained patiently that potatoes did not grow in Calcutta but had to be brought in from outside and for that, transportation was involved, and that transportation required petroleum, the supply of which was affected due to the invasion. Did I expect, he asked, him to bear the higher transportation cost? He was being blatantly opportunistic, for there was no hike in petroleum prices locally at that stage when he was demanding a higher price for his potatoes. This showed though he knew well how the world down to the level of a petty vegetable seller in Calcutta was interconnected. The IMF is, for example, warning that the escalating Euro zone debt crisis could derail the global economic recovery. The world, including Europe, is still paying a price for the greed of some, notably located on Wall Street.
Dangers and uncertainties of different kinds are related. Economic crisis is related with political crisis which in turn is related with moral crisis which in turn is related with economic crisis and so on in a threatening spiral. Some take advantage of these dangers and uncertainties, more powerful than my vegetable seller in Calcutta.
3. In light of the current crisis, should more decision-making authority be transferred to European institutions/organs?
The Euro zone crisis is serious and it requires the kind of policy initiative that considers the zone as a whole and addresses the crisis resolutely. European institutions can and should play a positive role here. They need to be strengthened. At the same time, this should not cause democratic deficit, for no initiative can be sustained on that basis.