In­dia: Land on the march

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

WMUMBAI, In­dia. hen I told friends I would be vis­it­ing In­dia, the im­me­di­ate re­sponse was, “Why? China’s the coun­try of the fu­ture!” Well, I’ve vis­ited China many times. It was time to meet some of the busi­ness, aca­demic and gov­ern­men­tal leaders of the world’s “big­gest democ­racy,” as In­dia bills it­self.

In­dia is large, al­most be­yond imagination. Its three largest cities, Mum­bai, Cal­cutta and Delhi, dwarf New York, Los An­ge­les and Hous­ton. More peo­ple (more than 42 mil­lion) live in those three cities than in the two-dozen largest U.S. cities com­bined.

Ev­ery num­ber in In­dia seems stag­ger­ing. More than 100,000 new en­gi­neers, for ex­am­ple, grad­u­ate from its ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem ev­ery year, and there are 120,000 In­dian stu­dents study­ing in the United States. For In­dia to meet its own in­ter­nal needs for col­lege grad­u­ates, it will need to es­tab­lish scores of new colleges and uni­ver­si­ties over the next decade.

By 2020, In­dia’s to­tal pop­u­la­tion is ex­pected to ex­ceed China’s, mak­ing it the world’s most pop­u­lous na­tion. It’s a land on the march. In the early 1990s, it launched crit­i­cal eco­nomic re­forms, and sub­se­quent gov­ern­ments have en­dorsed those re­forms, speed­ing their coun­try into the mod­ern era.

As the Her­itage Foun­da­tion’s “In­dex of Eco­nomic Free­dom” shows each year, more eco-

As the Her­itage Foun­da­tion’s “In­dex of Eco­nomic Free­dom” shows each year, more eco­nomic free­dom (an open econ­omy op­er­at­ing un­der the rule of law) gen­er­ates more eco­nomic growth. That, in turn, means a higher in­come for the av­er­age per­son. This is ex­actly what’s hap­pen­ing in In­dia.

nomic free­dom (an open econ­omy op­er­at­ing un­der the rule of law) gen­er­ates more eco­nomic growth. That, in turn, means a higher in­come for the av­er­age per­son. This is ex­actly what’s hap­pen­ing in In­dia.

No, I wasn’t daz­zled by the high-tech cen­ters of Hy­der­abad and Ban­ga­lore, be­cause I didn’t have time to even visit them. But I did hear from pri­vate bankers, busi­ness leaders, ed­u­ca­tors and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials. Their uni­ver­sal com­mit­ment to push­ing re­forms and in­vest­ing fur­ther in the In­dian eco­nomic mir­a­cle im­pressed me. For a half-dozen years now, In­dia has had a 7 per­cent to 9 per­cent real eco­nomic growth rate.

Yes, In­dia con­tin­ues to face daunt­ing chal­lenges. Al­most half the pop­u­la­tion still re­lies on sub­sis­tence farm­ing for its liveli­hood. Grind­ing poverty still af­flicts the ma­jor­ity of its cit­i­zens. The caste sys­tem re­mains. But plenty of ar­tic­u­late, able and prin­ci­pled par­lia­men­tar­i­ans are shak­ing up the sys­tem.

In­dia is a bet­ter place to do busi­ness than China, ac­cord­ing to U.S. Am­bas­sador David Mil­ford. It’s true the no­to­ri­ous In­dian bu­reau­cracy re­mains a stum­bling block. But con­tin­u­ing re­forms and the rule of writ­ten law is mak­ing the coun­try more busi­ness friendly and sup­port­ive of in­di­vid­ual rights.

Those are just a few rea­sons why the United States is now In­dia’s largest trad­ing part­ner ($42 bil­lion last year alone) and the largest for­eign in­vestor in In­dia. Mean­while, In­dian firms are be­com­ing world­wide com­pa­nies. The Tata Group, plan­ning to pro­duce a mass-mar­ket car to sell at $2,500, also bought the Land Rover and Jaguar au­to­mo­bile lines from Ford. It has re­cently in­vested sev­eral bil­lion dol­lars in ma­jor man­u­fac- tur­ing projects in the United States.

And Tata has also opened up two “call cen­ters” in Ohio and Florida. That’s right — an In­dian firm is hir­ing Amer­i­cans to man the phones.

In­dia still has a long way to go. Its ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem needs greater in­put from in­ter­na­tional colleges and uni­ver­si­ties, but that’s il­le­gal in In­dia. And the fi­nan­cial struc­ture is mo­nop­o­lis­tic and non-com­pet­i­tive. Still other re­forms are re­quired across the board. It is to be hoped that bills pend­ing be­fore Par­lia­ment will lead to re­form in all of th­ese crit­i­cal ar­eas.

Af­ter a week in In­dia, I can claim only a su­per­fi­cial set of im­pres­sions about this com­plex so­ci­ety, and the im­por­tant bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship be­tween the U.S. and In­dia.

But it’s enough to con­vince me that if In­dia con­tin­ues on its re­form path, it will be­come a very im­por­tant player on the in­ter­na­tional scene, and a vi­tal ad­vo­cate for free­dom around the globe. Ed Feul­ner is pres­i­dent of the Her­itage Foun­da­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.