Feb 19, 2007

Premature (And Sometimes Immature) Talk of Superpower Status

Some may find this article in Fortune's latest issue deriding India's superpower aspirations derisory (such as this reaction). Agreed the tone is unfortunately very snobbish but then the points it makes are also equally valid.

Though I am great India fan, the talk of super power status is just way too premature. Indian politicans find it a favourite past time, gloating on recent rapid growth. In a recent corporate fire drill, the coordinator was using a loud speaker and pepping up a crowd of few thousand IT employees by asking them if they see India's super power status coming. I found it amusing.

Until some fundamental goals are met: such as per capita income of $2500 (Atlas method) by 2015, or 80% literacy, reducing drop out rate before high school to 50% (from the current 94%), or a unified and simplified tax system, are achieved such talk should be discouraged. Empty super power talk, especially by Indian ministers and officials in international forums is useless, boastful and just doesn't help. Especially if those ministers in a coalition communist supported government are doing nothing to address core reform issues, such as labour laws.

If a communist China can provide gainful employment to relatively 100 million unskilled people in manufacturing, why is our communist supported government failing to do so? Archaic labour laws, vested interests representing only the formally employed sector (though the non-formal sector employs 10x times that figure), agriculatural inefficiencies driving many small farmers to suicides (even while politicians fight to prevent manufacturing projects like the Tata small car, though it will generate more employment for these un-viable farmers) : ALL THESE SHOULD GO.

This topic about should we rejoice in the recent bout of growth and the fundamental shift in trend growth rate is being widely debated. But isn't that debate, besides the point? Aren't we getting ahead of ourselves? Shouldn't we instead set goals on various socio-economic parameters? Goals that put the government under pressure to initiate more structural reforms rather than self-congratulate. Pressure to initiate reforms need not be external like the last time in 1991 when there was a serious Balance of Payment crisis. While some celebration is justifiable, we cannot go overboard until our 'goals are met'.


Hari said...

True. We still have a long way to go to get our basics right. For instance uninterrupted supply of electricity & water, primary education infrastructure, public health systems, basic sanitation and civic sense, financial discipline to the masses, social security.. I think many such issues still need to be addressed before we even start aspiring for super power status. Till then we need to put our heads down and just work and achieve more.

Yuva said...

agreed.. its not just governance.. we lack much more to become 'so-called' in next 30yrs.
2030: not India not India.. still USA


Ram Medury said...

Right Hari, we have something to learn here from the Chinese who seem to 'talk less and do more'. All the points you highlighted are glaring shortcomings to plug before making any claims.

Ram Medury said...

Well said Yuva, the link you enclosed once again shows how we need to catch up more. I do not intend to say this in a gloomy way, but just that we have covered miles and there are more miles to go.

Yuva said...

thank.. that link is my blog.. feel free to post comments and link to your blogrolling