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Phurba is from the remote hamlet of Dangchu under Wangdue Dzongkhag. He started his education from the last hut of erstwhile Dangchu Community School and then to Nobding and to Bajo. After class X, he went to Punakha HSS and obtained his degree in Economics from Sherubtse College, an affiliate to Delhi University. Prior to joining civil service, he did his Post Graduate in Public Administration from RIM. He is now an Asst. Planning Officer in Ministry of Education.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Beggars; the Economics Theory in Play

It was Saturday, November 05, 2011. As usual, I went to the weekend market in the Centenary Farmers’ Market and to other side of the rivers where the clothes and other crafts were sold in Thimphu. Just before crossing the bridge, I saw a few beggars. This particular scene allowed me to think about my vague and almost forgotten economics theories that were learnt in my college days.
Beggars were not found in this very place during others days. I asked myself why they are not found on weekdays. This is where they apply their marketing strategies which today companies paid a huge amount hiring employees for marketing and in advertisement.
For the success of any business, a proper location is of utmost important. This is not an exceptional for the beggars’ economy. During the weekends they flocked to the vegetable market where people from all walks of life gather. Even in that particular location they were never in the same place. They have their own place.
People donate hundreds of thousands for the political parties and in their worship place. But we are very reluctant to give even a few bucks for the beggars. The situation becomes worse when there are many beggars in the same place. Too many beggars spoil the show. Generally, people are willing to give some amount where there are only one or two beggars. But the same willingness disappears when too many beggars flock together. The rationality is understood by the beggars and they will have their own designated place. This is called market distribution where there is large competition. I have no idea on what basis they have distributed the market, may be through muscle power or mutual understanding.
Most of the beggars found in Thimphu are not originally from here. They are probably from across the country. This shows they are highly mobile. They are indeed well informed about the market opportunities but obviously not from the written communication as most of them are illiterate and also lack of facilities. Information is passed mostly from the words of mouth.
Once they have chosen the market, they use the same principle as the multinational companies. They will look at the place where there are opportunities. The same economics theory is in play where vegetable market is less preferred than memorial chorten during the auspicious days and changlingmethag during the big event.
There are different models of markets in operation. I saw a couple. This reminds me of partnership model where the liabilities are unlimited. The wife begs from shop to shop using a rosary as a symbol of being ardent religious practitioner. Husband follows his wife but silently begging from the passerby.
Most of the beggars are sole proprietorship where the liability is even more unlimited.
There is also collusion among the beggars. If we are happened to be in the border town of Jaigon, the scene of colluding market is rampant. Often it seems there is only a single beggar. However, after we give a few amounts to him/her it will be followed by an endless. This is where colluding market is preferred over the so called competitive model.
Another interesting thing is that at times, the street is free of beggars. This is the time when there is less traffic and people in the town. It is usually the time where shopkeepers are relaxing and it is not peak hour. Beggars do have fixed time like peak and non peak hour for any forms of market/business.
This is a small incident where I tried to relate theories into practice thinking of beggars’ economy. Beggar’ economy is no different from any metropolitan city’s economy from my myopic view.

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