Developed India

India, A Developed Nation by 2020?

Seems like this is on the minds of many Indians. An article in the Financial Express [December 29, 2003] quoted a few famous IIT Bombay graduates on this topic. Excerpt with bold emphasis added follows:

That is the question the Class of ’78 tried to answer after 25 years of passing out of their alma mater - IIT Bombay. The batch, which boasts of corporate chieftains like Nandan Nilekani, president and CEO, Infosys, researchers like Dr Narendra Karmarkar, bureaucrats, entrepreneurs, and even a politician — Manohar Parrikar, chief minister, Goa, narrated their experiences and how they have helped shape the country in their own way. The common theme across the discussions was that India could transition to a developed country in a very short period of time. Some like the chief minister felt the it could happen much before the year 2020. "Governance has to be public-centric," he noted. Mr Nilekani explained that the inherent capital in the country has to be better utilised for higher growth.

Reality Check

Assuming a most optimistic annual growth rate of 10% for Indian GDP for this time frame and accounting for population growth of about 1.5% per annum, translates to quadrupling of per capita income in 17 years. Currently this figure for income is at most US $700. It means that we will have about US $3000 per capita income by the year 2020, if everything goes extremely well.

This will bring us to about Mexico’s current level. That is, if we are very lucky. Is Mexico a developed country today? Ask millions of their natives who cross the Mexico-US borders to seek employment at fairly low wages. (If one wants to follow PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) logic, Mexico too is cheap.)

Moreover, the threshold for definition of “developed nation” is a ever-increasing. It means it will further delay our joining the league of “developed” nations.

What were these IITians Thinking?

[It is my belief that India is wrong to follow a Western model for development, mostly at the urging of its Westernized elites and business leaders. I think it will fail miserably. Instead, it should follow a development path to exploit its own unique potential. Will write about this more later under India directory.]

Have you heard of leaders and elites of other countries making such bold statements about the future without backing them up with facts? I haven’t. How would you feel if someone from, let’s say Uganda, made similar claim. Will you consider her to be a genius or a fool? What do you think when – and I am almost sure that right at this moment this is happening somewhere - some IITian informs his colleagues or fellow-students from developed countries about how India is going to be a developed country by the year 2020, what are those colleagues going to think?


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"The common theme across the discussions was that India could transition to a developed country in a very short period of time. Some like the chief minister felt the it could happen much before the year 2020."


(Last Updated: February 12, 2004.)

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