THE creation of tripartite wage boards decades ago — one for every region — had a solid economic basis. The underlying principle — underdeveloped regions may attract investments if their wage levels are slightly lower than their richer counterparts — looked like a sound investment-generation principle, after all. The core principle was this: let the regions decide on their ideal wage levels and see if this would work as a generator of much-needed investments in the laggard regions.

Development experts agree, then and now, that the surge of investments and economic opportunities in the eastern part of the country — the side facing the Pacific Ocean where the poorer regions are — would easily translate to a 3- to 5-percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth. That growth alone was enough reason to tone down opposition to the handover of wage-setting powers to the tripartite wage boards.

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