Thursday, 3 November 2011

Brazil - Russia - China... Vs India

BRIC.... that is what we are known as. BRIC... all of us Indians - at least the educated ones - take immense pride in the supposed fact that we are the poster-boys of the world. We are growing at 8% in GDP terms (some of us might even think that 6.5% is not bad considering how the rest of the world is doing), we escaped the 2008 financial crisis. Great. Fabulous. 

BRIC: Brazil, Russia, India, China. How do we compare? And why are we thinking only about China? Look at some facts now, enumerated below (click link for full details)

  1. Adult Literacy:
    1. Russia 99.6%
    2. Brazil 90%
    3. China 94%
    4. India 62.8%
    5. Even Sri Lanka 90.6%!!!!
  2. Life Expectancy:
    1. Russia: 68.8
    2. Brazil: 73.5
    3. China: 73.5
    4. India: 65.4
    5. Sri Lanka:  74.9!!!!
  3. Under-5 Mortality:
    1. Russia: 12
    2. Brazil: 21
    3. China: 19
    4. India: 66
    5. Sri Lanka: 15!!!!
  4. Total Fertility Rate:
    1. Russia: 1.5
    2. Brazil: 1.8
    3. China: 1.6
    4. India: 2.5
    5. Sri Lanka: 2.2!!!!
  5. Gender Inequality Index:
    1. Russia: 59
    2. Brazil: 80
    3. China: 35
    4. India: 129
    5. Sri Lanka: 74!!!!
What nonsense are we talking about? Gender Equality, Primary Schooling, Life Expectancy, Infant Mortality, Literacy are all basic indices that indicate quality of life and governance. And in each, B/R/C are ahead. We compare ourselves with China in terms of Freedom of Expression... good, that we should. But then we should also compare all the other parameters of pertinence. And why aren't we benchmarking ourselves against Brazil - a country similar in size and challenges? Even Sri Lanka is ahead of us

We look at economic indices and worry... perhaps it is high time that we looked at these basic indices - for the very simple economic reason that a healthy, literate, Well-schooled and taken care of population will be more productive. Dont believe me? Well, Per Capita Income of these countries is Russia 14561, Brazil 10162, China 7476, India 3468, and Sri Lanka 4943!

What is the quality of governance that we are giving our people? More to the point, how sustainable is our model of growth if the basic needs of the majority of the population are not addressed? This is indicative of a deeper problem within us: unless the changes initiated in the past 20 years are not drilled till the grass-roots levels, the figures are not going to be very different. We are creating an urban rural divide within us wherein the rural population will lag behind. And unless literacy levels go up & mortality goes down you cannot expect productivity to significantly improve

Let us take an example: farm productivity. It is among the lowest even in the developing world. Dont you think that an educated farmer will be more amenable to and willing to accept the advances in agriculture? Will he not be better aware? Will that not translate into a better output? We are talking about infrastructure... to my mind, these basic indices are equally important for development and need to tackled on a war footing. The evidence that they impact development is omnipresent. What is required is our will and effort.

The alternative is continue on the current road map. We are doing fairly well... 7  -9 % GDP growth isn't bad. But this top-heavy model of development will increase the Rich-Poor and Urban-Rural divide and create further wedges in our socio - economic fabric. Unless the advantages of growth trickle to all levels, the full benefits will not be realised. In short, it is simply not sustainable. For it to be sustainable, most critically, each strata of society should be in a position to take advantage of it.

This is not a communist viewpoint- I am talking pure economic sense. Unless basic indices are in place, the people will not benefit fully from any development simply because their awareness levels will not enable them to grab the opportunities that come. And, if they lag, the effects of their backwardness on the economic productivity of the nation are too worrisome to contemplate...

Wake Up, India. We are not doing nearly as well as we think we are.... we need to get out act together. 

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