A sturdy—and highly optimistic—analysis of Indian politics and economics.
Times of India columnist Das was once a youthful idealist who believed passionately in Nehru’s version of socialism and later kept faith in India’s mixed-economy path to market democracy. Both models failed, for complex reasons having mostly to do, Das suggests, with incompetence and corruption in the official sector. The worst moments came between 1965 and 1991, when, “instead of changing our course as many countries did, we tightened our system, making it more rigid and bureaucratic”—even as occasional experiments in deregulation showed promise of replacing scarcity with plenty. Now convinced that “alleviating poverty is more important than achieving quality,” and that the creation of wealth is as important as its just distribution, Das heralds India’s sweeping reforms of 1991, which lifted government controls over industries and markets, encouraged foreign trade, and coordinated efforts to build a modern infrastructure. One now-evident result, Das holds, is India’s thriving information-technology sector, which has drawn on an immense pool of “intellectual capital” (i.e., highly educated workers) to create an industry that promises to rival that of Silicon Valley. Much remains to be done to make India competitive as an information-technology power, Das allows, inasmuch as it has only 3 computers for every 1,000 people (and will likely raise that figure only to 20 or so by 2008). Even so, he urges, high-tech is the best path to eradicating India’s persistent poverty. “We have realized,” he writes, “that our great strength is our people. Our great weakness is our government. Our great hope is the Internet.”
Extremely useful reading for anyone seeking to invest in or do business with India, and for students of the global economy generally.