August 19, 2013

Economic Troubles and National Mindsets

I put a long, somewhat rambling comment on a Newslaundry article.

Enjoy!

The 'anger' in this article may be well-founded but it perhaps mangled the economics in comparing India with Greece and in using debt-to-GDP ratio as a barometer of a nation's overall economic health.


I don't know how Britain and Japan managed to have such high debt-to-GDP numbers but they are among the most developed and richest nations on Earth — both being members of the G8. How do or did Britain and Japan manage to become so extraordinarily wealthy? Well, the history aside, in the 20th century and after the Second World War, they have been at the cutting edge of various kinds of technological innovations. While Japan has been the center of the automobile revolution in many ways, Britain is home to British Aerospace, Rolls Royce, and many similar companies.

I bet if we look at the data of per capita number of doctors or engineers in those countries, the ratio would be better than in India. India produces a million engineers per year but it's doubtful how technically competent they are. India is in many ways at the bottom end of the scale whereas these two countries are at the top end.

Finally, it always makes sense to keep the population in mind. So, Japan has 120 million people today and the UK has 60 million.

Greece is a nation of 10 million. Cyprus has 800,000 population, somewhat less than half of Delhi's population.

Greece is spectacularly corrupt with massive tax avoidance among the professional classes such as doctors. Very similar to what the case is in India.

I notice that while the author excoriates the government for 'corruption' on massive scales, he does not point to corruption of the more trivial and everyday flavor — the doctors or lawyers or businessmen who manage to cheat on their taxes or the bureaucrats who amass small fortunes taking advantage of whatever 'powers' come with their postings. The 'spoils' are 'shared' among corrupt politicians, businessmen, and bureaucrats.

India is a nation of 1,300 million people. Desperately poor people. How much of the problems are going to be solved by removing headline corruption scams such as Coalgate, 2G, and so on??

I do not advocate the Congress party. Let the Family (lest people think otherwise, I like naming names and walking the talk .... by the 'Family' I mean the Gandhis) be compulsorily deported out of India to London, Dubai, Moscow, Timbuktu, Abbotabad, Karachi, Italy or wherever else they wish to immigrate. Let them be thrown in jail (or at least the weird, land-grabbing Vadra). I will be happy to see the corrupt swiftly and summarily punished.

If we are worried that the Rajas, Kalmadis, Bansals and Pawars are looting the country, what prevents us from having the death penalty for extravagant cases of corruption? I am in support of that as well.

But what is the SOLUTION to corruption? I believe it is relatively simple. Institutions such as Lokpal and Lokayukta plus a judiciary that DELIVERS justice ... inside of a maximum of two years.

But end of corruption won't spell the end of troubles for India. That is what I think. Here's why.

I like to observe the 'ordinary' people of India and the patterns of their lives. What are they?

I observe 30-year-olds in my family who are 'educated' in a formal sense of the term. I have seen them since the last 20 years growing up from being kids and going to school and college and then getting married and having kids.

It shocks me no end that perhaps a vast majority of the "youth" in India stops learning much in the way of educating themselves or expanding their horizons once they finish their college. Then, it's over to the 'next' stage in life which involves marriage and babies and meaningless rituals.

It shocks me to observe the 19th century mindsets young Indians carry in the 21st century.

No, it's not enough. It's NOT ENOUGH for young women to say they are kept completely 'busy' at home in cooking and taking care of their single 3 year old kid. They must do jobs too.

People in the West manage to squeeze in a job, kids, and hobbies too in their busy lives.
How many Indians are on Coursera? Or EdX or Udacity.

Coursera's servers should be creaking, groaning and crashing under strain from an overload of students from India.

Why are the youth of India not taking advantage of the exceptional free courses available on these MOOCs?

Most are happy to cultivate their youthful hobbies of watching Bollywood and cricket throughout their lives.

Could there be something more odious? Can there be a more odious way of wasting your time than 'watching' either the meaningless game of cricket or the meaningless, unimaginative, absurd romantic fiction that Bollywood peddles?
No. I consider it simply 'unacceptable' for a 50-year-old to watch either cricket or Bollywood.

I tried to get a 20-year-old to watch Carl Sagan's Cosmos recently. I failed. I thought he was not exceptional in any manner. His failure to understand Cosmos and his lack of curiosity proved to me why Uttar Pradesh is so backward and why it will remain so. This kid was from UP. but I think I can extrapolate the situation to Bihar and West Bengal; Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

I am giving very specific examples of some deep-rooted wrong attitudes rather than making economic arguments.

I believe innovation is at the root of economic progress today ... unless of course you discover 'oil' or natural gas or some other equally valuable natural resource.

How innovative are Indians??? The most high-profile of exports from India is software services. It makes sense that the $100 billion India earns from this software export business gets much focus. It probably constitutes about one-third of India's total exports.

But how long can we and how long ARE WE going to merely 'leverage' the 'cost arbitrage'?

I do not wish India to replace Bangladesh as the 'world leader' in exporting cheap garments to the United States/Europe and I do not aspire for India to become the global headquarters of the call center industry.

India and Indians must learn to think big if they want to come out of this centuries' old story of misery.

Where are the plans for a manned mission to Mars from India? Where's the plan to launch a man from India and land him on the Moon? Where are the plans to make India's own indigenous passenger aircraft?

I guess we could point to the launch of both INS Vikrant and INS Chakra on the same day and crow about it or feel proud about it. But I take those achievements as par-for-the-course kind of achievements. If ISRO hopefully successfully launches the GSLV D-5 with the indigenous cryogenic engine on Aug. 19, that will be a good success. But those sort of successes always enables India to join an 'exclusive club' of four of five nations. India NEVER does something which will put India entirely ahead of the world. Aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and rockets with cryogenic engines are at least 50-year-old technologies.

I will merely end by saying: Singh or Modi is not the real crux of the problem. If it were just a matter of electing the 'right' PM ... well, we all know that saying about 'if wishes were horses.'

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