Saturday, July 08, 2006
The Myth of the New India
Pankaj Mishra likes to swim against the tide. When the world is singing paens to India's economic miralcle, Mishra writes an op-ed in the NYT questioning the fundamentals behind the assumption of India's miracle. And he marshalls some convincing data to prove his point:
"INDIA is a roaring capitalist success story." So says the latest issue of Foreign Affairs; and last week many leading business executives and politicians in India celebrated as Lakshmi Mittal, the fifth richest man in the world, finally succeeded in his hostile takeover of the Luxembourgian steel company Arcelor. India's leading business newspaper, The Economic Times, summed up the general euphoria over the event in its regular feature, "The Global Indian Takeover": "For India, it is a harbinger of things to come — economic superstardom."
"This sounds persuasive as long as you don't know that Mr. Mittal, who lives in Britain, announced his first investment in India only last year. He is as much an Indian success story as Sergey Brin, the Russian-born co-founder of Google, is proof of Russia's imminent economic superstardom."
"...The main reason for this is that India's economic growth has been largely jobless. Only 1.3 million out of a working population of 400 million are employed in the information technology and business processing industries that make up the so-called new economy."
I agree with Mishra's conclusion--we need to do a lot of work before we can rightfully claim that the 21st century is the century of India: "Many serious problems confront India. They are unlikely to be solved as long as the wealthy, both inside and outside the country, choose to believe their own complacent myths."