about us
  areas of expertise
  our projects
  ideas & resources


               Index of Articles          Index of Perspectives            Next Article



When Will We Ever Learn?

Omkar Goswami


Every once in a while I have to go abroad on work for over a week at a time.  During such trips, between cramming a large number of tasks at hand and meeting friends, I have little time to regularly check what is happening in our motherland. So, on returning, I am often astounded by the extraordinary amount of rubbish that constitutes “matters of importance”.


Consider the nonsense that the Left has raked up regarding the inclusion of 14 so-called “foreigners” as members of consultative committees of the Planning Commission. How can political parties whose leaders constitute the elite among our country’s intelligentsia - bar-at-laws from London and MAs from the best universities of the country and England -  waste precious time raking up such an absurd issue? Firstly, these are people who have been appointed to several consultative committees, each of which consist of over 30-odd men and women, who donate their time and expertise to suggest various areas of reform. Second, 13 of the 14 so-called “foreigners” are Indians, or of Indian origin. Third, even if they weren’t, does anyone with a right mind believe that by including them in consultative committees of the Planning Commission, they will enact the great imperialist-capitalist conspiracy to destroy this country from within? Are we a banana republic where 14 people can subvert and subjugate the land? Why is it in 2004 - a full fifty-seven years after our independence - that some of us still feel that they have to be zealous cops in search of elusive Mir Jaffars who can “sell” our land to the “gora paltan”? And why do we believe that Indians are the fountainhead of all wisdom and knowledge, and therefore don’t need to anything from anybody else, especially Western-educated people?


The contrast between us an China cannot be more striking. Here is a country which wants to slow down the economy from 9.8% GDP growth to 8%. How I wish we could have slowed down to 8%! China’s real GDP in 2003 was $1.4 trillion - which was 2.9 times India’s GDP of $520 billion. It is country which attracted $54 billion in foreign direct investments last year, and has been regularly getting over $45 billion every year for the last decade. In contrast we couldn’t even manage $3.5 billion. According to most economists, China’s economy will overtake Japan’s by 2015.

Let me give you a sense of numbers. Even if China grows at a conservative 8% over the next 25 years, it will have a GDP of almost $13 trillion; in contrast, if we grow at 8% - which requires significantly more infrastructure investments and far greater attention to good governance - we will achieve a real GDP of $3.5 trillion. There can be no doubt that the world will respect a $13 trillion country significantly more than a $3.5 trillion one. 


Today, China is the world’s No.1 market for mobile phones (it accounts for over 20% of global mobile subscribers), and the No.2 market for personal computers. The country accounts for over 23% of the world’s purchase of TVs.  In 2003, China’s exports to its top 10 trading countries was $320 billion; and its imports from them was $272 billion. With a production of over 220 million metric tons, it is already the world’s largest steel maker; yet it has imported an extra 40 million, and accounts for almost 27% of global steel consumption. It has the world’s fastest growing appetite for coal, steel, aluminium, crude oil and virtually every other industrial commodity under the sun. Automobile capacity in China is set to rise to over 6 million cars by 2010 - for which foreign car makers have already invested almost $14 billion.

I could continue. But let me end with this statistic: economic reforms that were unleashed by Deng Xiaoping has lifted close to 250 million people out of poverty since the late 1970s. 


To China, the key aphorism for governance is one of Deng’s maxims: "Development is the hard truth”. Pity that some of our best educated don’t follow that adage, and instead adopt another one: “Out with the foreigners, running dogs and imperialists”.


Published: Business World, October 2004


                Index of Articles          Index of Perspectives           Next Article