Friday, July 28, 2006

India: a superpower with clay feet

Readers of my Blog will be very familiar with my view that China has huge problems ahead in the medium- to long-term, at least much larger problems than India - because China's lack of democracy and its controlled press means that problems and issues can be hidden away for years till they reach explosion point, whereas India's problems and challenges are clear for all to see even if its democratic traditions mean that a certain consensus is necessary and that takes time.

The latest summary of the pros and cons of India's development has apparently just been produced by the World Bank's India Development Policy Review published on Wednesday, 26 July 2006.

Apparently, it claims that "India is one of the world’s fastest growing economies at 8.5 per cent. But a typical doctor in New Delhi is less competent than his counterpart in Tanzania and much less so than a similar professional in Indonesia.
While Indian management graduates command an annual salary of up to Rupees 1 crore, two-thirds of India’s children cannot read a story, and more than 50 per cent cannot solve simple numerical problems". (For those who don't know, a crore is an Indian term for ten million and an Indian rupee is just over 40 USD).

Some Indian states, the Review says, have rates of poverty that are worse than Malawi’s, an African nation with a GDP of just $7 billion compared with India’s $3.6 trillion. Even Bangladesh has a better record in reducing infant mortality rates, it says.

The report warns: “India in 2006 is not yet at, but is nearing a point where paths diverge. One branch of the path leads to a downward spiral into a vicious circle while on the other there is a positive reinforcing virtuous circle.”

It recommends immediate implementation of key infrastructure projects and social reform initiatives. It also recommends greater accountability to improve delivery of services in core areas.

As I have argued elsewhere, the key lies in liberating India's tribals and Dalits ("outcastes") from the economic stranglehold of the upper castes and by enabling the historically oppressed groups to have education and encouragement for entrepreneurship.

For some reason, I cannot find the Review on the World Bank's website, but the story has been widely reported in the Indian press, for example, at: Sphere: Related Content

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