It’s the ultimate insult to the neta-babu brotherhood which despite the landmark liberalisation and deregulation initiative of 1991, continues to micro-manage the Indian economy.
In the International Monetary Fund’s latest World Economic Outlook 2020 published last month, India’s GDP is set to contract by 10.3 percent because of ham-fisted mismanagement of the Covid-19 crisis and Bangladesh is set to surpass India in nominal per capita GDP terms this fiscal. With our neighbour nation having managed the pandemic better, its nominal per capita income is projected to rise from $1,820 in 2019 to $1,890 in 2020 surpassing India’s $1,880.
It’s pertinent to recall that in December 1971, in a brilliantly managed 17-day war, the Indian Army liberated East Pakistan from the oppressive rule of a united Pakistan taking 90,000 officers and men of Pakistan Army prisoner, and enabled proclamation of the independent nation of Bangladesh (pop.165 million).
Although several Indian economists and political pundits describe this as temporary phenomenon, on several parameters of economic development Bangladesh has shown impressive progress. For one, it has emerged as a major textiles and apparels exporter, ranked #4 by Fashion2Fibre.com (revenue: $39 billion), cf. India ranked #5 ($37 billion). This despite our historic advantage in textiles and much larger population.
Yet the moot point is not to compare and contrast the massive Indian economy with Bangladesh but with our neighbour nation to the north by north-east — the People’s Republic of China (PRC, pop. 1.5 billion). On October 1, 1949 when the PRC was proclaimed in Peking (now Beijing), India was way ahead of China, ravaged by the Japanese invasion during World War II, on almost every metric of national development, especially education. Newly independent India’s pioneer leaders of industry who had financed the freedom movement, had built an industrial base for the country. And with a well-reputed collection of schools and presidency universities, we were far ahead of PRC.
However during the past wasted seven decades since India adopted socialist ideology with Indian characteristics, the relative standing of the world’s most populous countries has been radically reversed. Currently, PRC is widely acknowledged together with the United States as one of the two global super-powers. Its $15 trillion economy dwarfs India ($2.9 trillion), and on every metric including literacy, mean years of schooling, number of globally top-ranked universities, industrial and agriculture productivity, defence capability, life expectancy and Olympic medals tally, PRC is leagues ahead of 21st century India.
The IMF’s World Economic Outlook 2020 report is a wake-up call to the Indian establishment including the academy, to acknowledge this reality and deeply introspect about ways and means to arouse the deeply buried capabilities of our high-potential nation.
Also read: Well begun but unfinished long march