‘To measure Chinese power based on the tired rules of how many aircraft carriers she has or on per-capita GDP leads to devastating mis-measurement.’

Joshua Cooper Ramo, p.2

                                      Part I of the article can be found here 

Statistical data and study after study from multilateral agencies prove that on a comparable footing, in spite of the high economic growth India enjoyed since the beginning of the century or even since 1991 as India liberalized, we have not been able to improve the literacy rates of overall India in any significant way. Countries having similar demographic profile but growing at much lower rate of GDP growth than India have been able to improve their (1) Literacy rates, (2) Child mortality, (3) Health of pregnant women, (4) Child health and finally (5) their performance in Olympics or in FIFA World CUP – two events that globally measure how good a country is in sports, compared to India.

The performance of India (along with South Asia) in these two global sports event proves conclusively the backwardness of India (and South Asia) compared with Sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa, thankfully, have been able to generate lot of internal debates, global attention and the attention of resource-hungry Chinese policy-makers. Backwardness of India and South Asia, for some unknown reasons, gets ignored globally and locally.

The impact of wrong priority on wrong processes manifest beyond illiteracy, poverty, malnutrition. The average age at which Indian women get married, the latest round of ‘honor killings’ that gets media attention for the time being, the child labor, an unsustainable rate of population growth compared with available local resources…India tops in all these social evils; not in absolute numbers that may be expected, but in % of population as well.

The benchmark of comparison is obviously not Afghanistan et al. while stating above.

Beijing Consensus, on the other hand, is discussed openly more in the West than by Chinese policy-makers. Chinese policy-makers, per se, don’t openly discuss about Beijing Consensus. Bremmer talked about it (Quoting Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei: ‘Now that the free market has failed, what do you think is the proper role for the state in the economy?’) as Bremmer got the idea of his book (‘The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations?) from that discussion.

I have not yet heard any such questions being asked by Indian media or in serious academic/industry seminars/discussions. It’s sort of blasphemous as India boasts about 8-10% growth year after year with liberalization. Free market (whatever it means in Indian context as ‘free market’ doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing across nations) finds its worshippers in India – in government, in industry lobbies and within pockets of academics as well.

In India, there’s not yet been any war or even a dispute between the State and its corporations. Indian state welcomes the corporations with a red carpet, irrespective of the merits and demerits these corporations represent.

A country of 1.15 billion can talk only about merits of corporations where various statistics proved 70-80% of the population lives below $2-a-day, and another 30-40% or even more (depending on whom you believe!) lives below $1-a-day. Beyond official literacy, there is worse data on real literacy.

Still, it’s a country of 300 million+ people who partly is reaping the benefits of that GDP growth; still the 2nd most populous nation. Rest of the 700 million+ population can be and is comfortably forgotten by those believers of GDP and believers of free market. However even these 300 million+ odd Indians fail to raise Indian flags high in these two world sports events. The sports education that Indian society provides to the children of these well-off 300 millions+ Indian populace also gets reflected in the overall performance of India in FIFA World Cup or in Olympics. The performance, sadly again, is no where among the top nations.

Conclusion: This so-called 300 million+  affluent middle-class Indians, on its own becoming 2nd populous nation if gets measured ignoring the rest of Indians, fail to represent India in global sports arena anywhere close to its rank – be it by population or by size of its economy.

The problem lies much deeper. India has been following the wrong processes and wrong measures by believing in trickle-down economics when what’s happening is worse than ‘If you feed the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows.’

At present rate of near-double digit GDP growth and its impact on illiteracy, poverty reduction, malnutrition; I am not sure how long it would take for India to achieve the MDGs. Unfortunately, going by the actions by Indian policy-makers, there’s not much crisis on missing the MDGs. The crisis happens when the GDP slips, even for a quarter, by a percent point or so.

It pains to see the government fanfare in celebrating 2nd October, birth day of Mahatma Gandhi when the same Gandhi stated: “the test of orderliness in a country is not the number of millionaires it owns, but the absence of starvation among its masses”.

In India, the positive correlation of GDP growth with number of millionaires far outscores the same of GDP growth and absence of starvation (is it +ve at all?).

Importance of GDP is not being undermined. Rest of the world understands GDP growth rates better now as they don’t face illiteracy, or ‘have nothing’ poverty as prevalent in India. The developed world dealt with these problems more than half-a-century ago. For them, India can be a poster boy with near-double digit GDP growth rates; however as a measure of its effectiveness on quality of lives for the masses and more so for its disadvantaged sections; India internally can adhere to other effective measures like literacy, poverty reduction, etc. Needless to say; the later deserves more attention as economy seems to be on an auto-run now. To improve literacy or reduce poverty, the processes that the government needs to focus on, are likely to be different.  

Advocating India to follow Beijing Consensus blindly is not metaphorical as India and China also have differences. However till the time India realizes that no single copied model would help her better realize her goals for its 1.15 billion citizens collectively; it can learn from the indigenous innovative model of ‘Beijing Consensus’ and its results – in literacy, poverty, malnutrition, GDP, trade, and also in its performance in Olympics. Beijing, irrespective of its advocacy of Beijing Consensus policies, realized that it had to find solutions to its problems by itself. That does not mean not learning from others; but it’s not blind copying.

India has so far been blindly copying the ‘Washington Consensus’ policies to please a minority of its vocal people (and the U.S.) when much of the developing world is talking less about shifting from ‘the Washington Consensus’ to ‘the Beijing Consensus’,  but debating internally about it or have started acting on it. For the sake of those millions of illiterates, poor, malnourished Indians and for the sake of a better performance in future events of the FIFA World Cup Final or in Olympics; it is time that India  explores other options, including adopting Beijing Consensus in parts, than sticking to sacrosanct ‘free market’ policies of the Washington Consensus.

Within Indian societies, it should no longer be a taboo to ask the Indian Prime Minister, from economics background; or his blue-eyed blue-turbaned boy the question that He Yafei asked Bremmer: ‘Now that the free market has failed, what do you think is the proper role for the Indian state in the economy?’

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