My colleague Rajesh Jain in the second part of a series “It’s Up to Us Now” notes, that “even after 63 years, India is in many senses worse off than it was in 1947. We have to understand the whys and hows of India’s failure to develop. That’s the unavoidable first step to putting India on a path to recovery. We cannot fix problems that we don’t understand the causes of, or worse yet, if we don’t even admit that we have problems.”
He asks 10 questions and writes that the search for answers to those questions “is the start for the path to reclaim India. Our so-called leaders have failed us. It is up to us now to change the course of our nation.”
• Why is India still poor?
• Why have the numbers of Indians below the poverty line doubled to more than 500 million since 1947?
• Why doesn’t India have a decent education system?
• Why are 70 percent of Indians still stuck in tiny villages in the 21st century?
• Why is 60 percent of the labor force involved in agriculture?
• Why is India’s industrial base so small?
• Why doesn’t India generate sufficient electrical power?
• Why doesn’t India have a modern rail network?
• Why doesn’t India have a serviceable road network?
• Why is India so unfriendly to business and entrepreneurship?
As I have noted before, economic development is neither inevitable nor impossible. More often than not, it is a consequence of the right policies executed sensibly by dedicated people. India’s failure to develop was not inevitable. By now, after over 60 years of political independence, India could have conceivably achieved at least middle-income status if India’s leadership had even been half-way competent. India had pretty much all that was needed to climb out of debilitating poverty, as Rajesh notes in his post.
The global conditions for economic development of a labor-surplus economy such as India around mid 20th century were as good as it gets. The advanced industrial countries had by then figured out the solutions to many of the problems that face developing economies. Economists understood quite well how the transition from agriculture to industrialization happened, how an open economy made rapid progress, how and why command and control of large economies was doomed to failure, etc. India had access to brilliant minds who would have been thrilled to help India make good policies.
Not just that, India had good-will among developed nations. They were cheering for India’s success and were willing to lend a helping hand. They would have helped but they were told to mind their own business. It must take an infinite amount of hubris to rudely spit on those who were eager to help. India’s leader at India’s independence set India on a path that led it to become a huge nations of 1200 million people, two-thirds of whom have to live on less than Rs 100 a day. Note “less than” — that means that there are a few hundred million people who survive (if it can be called survival) on less than Rs 50 a day.
Let me put that in some perspective. About 300 million people live on less than $1 a day. That’s equivalent to the population of the US. Now compare $1 to the $126 per capita income per day of the US. Imagine if you had $1 to spend on your daily food, clothing, shelter, education, health services, entertainment. Your life would not be fun.
I am not saying that Indians would have been as rich as the US — clearly that is not possible since India is very small in land area relative to the US (and land matters.) But it could have been a middle income country like say Mexico if its leader had not messed up.
But all that promise and potential was wasted — solely due to bad economic policies made by people of little understanding and even less wisdom.
India needs to change tack. To do that, India needs leaders who are not wedded to socialism that produces little, and then mindlessly redistributes the scant production. India needs leaders who understand that increased production must precede any attempts at redistribution. India needs leaders who understand that social justice is predicated on economic prosperity, and not the other way around. India needs leaders who understand that economic prosperity arises from an open market-friendly liberal economy.
The time has come for us to give the socialistic PPP model (planned perpetual poverty — much beloved of the Congress and the Dynasty that leads it) a decent burial. Like Count Dracula, the Congress-PPP have sucked India’s life blood for decades. Actually, to make sure that it is never going to rise again, what we need to do is to drive a stake through the PPP heart of the Congress, then cremate it, then load up the ashes in one of those interplanetary probes and put a warning for extra-terrestrials who may discover it in 40 million years that the contents are hazardous and should not be opened.
It’s all up to us now.