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Is India catching up with China?

Written by: Staff

Hyderabad, Mar 28: Is India catching up with China? The oft posed question was in spotlight during an interaction with economics experts here last evening.

Putting these questions in the wake of Indian economy posting high growth rates, London School of Economics Professor Ashwani Saith opined ''this higher growth does seem to suggest the rate of change is getting closer, but the levels of the growth rate remain higher in China, implying that in terms of absolute levels of achievement,there is little likelihood of India catching up with or overtaking China.'' However, the two systemic performances were showing qualitative signs of 'perverse convergency' with China beginning to display some of the negative socio-economic and political governance features of Indian system, noted Prof Saith, Dean, Institute of Social Studies, The Netherlands.

''This is evident in a range of phenomena -- from the status of women, including the return of strong gender disadvantage, prostitution, terrible sex ratios at birth and state of environment to spectacular rise in corruption and endemic expansion of socio-economic insecurity in countryside as health and education become increasingly inaccessible to a large section of rural population due to unaffordable user charges levied as part of reform process.

''The spectacular rise in inequalities in both systems, with China going downhill much faster and perhaps, overtaking India, are some of the undesirable aspects,'' he pointed out while delivering a lecture here last night at the Centre for Economic and Social Studies.

''On the other hand, those who use preservation of democratic institutions and values as a reason, excuse or alibi for India's poorer economic performance, need to take note of the continual attritional deterioration in quality of public life in the country, especially ''flagrant dominance of corruption, criminality and communalism'' in the body politic,'' Prof Saith felt.

''In this perverse sense, the two countries are indeed converging, and it is difficult to say if the loss of values of socialist community has been greater and more devastating than the loss of democratic and socialistic norms and ways of being in India.

''In both systems, the public good has been thoroughly privatised.

This raises question if to much attention has been paid to the wrong race,'' he opined.

One thing to cheer about in Indian political system was politicians do something for the poor to win elections.

A comparative performance since 1950 showed that China had performed emphatically better than India.

''Starting from a virtually identical position in 1950, China's per capita income stands at twice the level of India in 2003; It has a much lower incidence of headcount poverty, regardless of specific methodologies used.

''Its life expectancy at 71 is six years more than that of the average Indian, its adult literacy rate is 91 per cent compared to 65 per cent for India; It has more than twice as many physicians per head of poplation than India; Only eight per cent of its under fives suffer from moderate underweight and none are severely so, whereas for India as many as 47 per cent are modearately or severly underweight.

''Only 14 of these children suffer from moderate or severe stunting in China, but as many as 46 per cent do in India.

While institutional framework served as a contextual rigidity and as a development constraint in India, in contrast, the Chinese socialist development state was able to address the institutional framework as a prime target variable to be refashioned instrumentally as deemed optimal function with respect to accelerating growth process.

''This dimension provided an underlying leitmotif over the entire period since 1949 in China,'' he summed up.


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