Mumbai prominently displays the side of India’s 60-plus years of economic progress that
other cities hide.
It’s a place where the ultra-rich spend
big cash on Ferraris and Porsche, but
don’t have roads to experience their
supercars, a metropolis that sees long
spells of monsoon, but struggles to provide 24-hour water supply and a city
where business tycoons mint their fortunes, but shy away from investing in
job-oriented industries or in social services.
Although Mumbai is probably one of
the worst-run metros in India, its situation is repeated in varying degrees all
across the country.
About 400 million Indians — that’s
more than the population of the United
States — live below the poverty line, 500
million defecate in the open, nearly 300
million are illiterate and more than 200
million do not have electricity.
In 2011, only 15 countries outside sub-
Saharan Africa had per capita income
lower than India, according to the
India spends 1.2 percent of its gross
domestic product on health care, which
is higher than just nine countries. China
spends 2.7 percent, Latin America 3.8
percent and the world average is 6.5
In a survey conducted by the International Institute of Population Sciences,
69 percent of Primary Health Centres in
the country had just one bed and 20
percent a telephone.
Even a country as poor as Bangladesh
has better female participation in the
workforce than India, 57 percent and 29
In a country where around 40 percent
The view of the Indian economy, 66 years on
children under the age of five are under-
weight and 50 percent stunted, more
than 30 percent food rots before reach-
ing the market, where education stan-
dards have fallen so much that Infosys’s
N R Narayana Murthy had to publicly
Of challenges tempered
Is there anything to celebrate
this Independence Day?
Iam very proud of the progress that Indiahasmadeinmultipledimensions, including economic growth, equality
for its citizens, and creating a global consciousness about India’s contribution to the
world and its increasingly important role in
I have followed India for years. After finishing my graduate degree from Harvard
and Cambridge, I moved to China and then
to India as an investor to head one of the
larger American hedge funds. I was heavily
focused on India from 2006 to 2009 and
during that time and after we have seen
tremendous highs for average Indians and
Indians, both at home and overseas, are
curious about governance and its challenges.
There has been a lot of controversy
involving Professors Amartya Sen and
Jagdish Bhagwati on the issue of growth
and development. I would say both are correct because from the long-term perspective India has done well by any indicator.
Essentially, they agree on that point.
For all Indians, in terms of a very level
social structure, they are better today than
they were two generations ago.
That said, I think that one of
the key challenges for India is
what the Chinese government
has done and whether India
will measure up to expectations and match China.
China has made heavy
investments in primary goods,
in health, education and infrastructure. These primary
goods are drivers of individual
productivity. Without adequate investments in primary
education and health and
infrastructure it is very hard to catch up
Despite India’s tremendous demographic
bounty and education and talent, the coun-
try needs to ensure economic
development and broader
success than just GDP
The growth that we saw in
India while investing in companies there was in most cases
benefitting, what they call in
India, promoters... That
growth would not trickle
down — not just to the companies, but also not to the
That is a challenge of meas-
uring GDP as a measure of
economic success. India could have a very
significant GDP growth, but that does not
mean growth reaches everybody at the base
of the society. The distribution gap and the
rising inequality are still huge.
I am a long-term optimist about India’s
prospect. I believe that the fundamentals of
India are great, and India’s influence and
impact on the world in future are very positive.
The Constitution that was founded on
liberal principles and values, the kind of
rule of law, rights and liberties, universal
franchise are still very good and are there
regardless of the economy.
Also there is tremendous human capital.
I think India is one of the best countries
in the world despite some of its problems.
In the long run, the power of India as a culture and as a symbol should not be underestimated at all.
The way my American colleagues speak
these days about India and its culture and
tradition, could not be imagined some
15/20 years ago.
I am proud and optimistic about India
notwithstanding its short-term challenges.
Manik Suri is co-founder and chief oper-
ating officer, Governance Lab, a New York-
based civic technology start-up.
As told to Suman Guha Mozumder.
I for India
A homeless boy takes shelter
from rain outside a pizza cafe
This city prominently displays
the paradox of India’s
economic progress that
other cities hide.
ARKO DAT TA/REUTERS
‘I am optimistic about
India, notwithstanding its
August 23, 2013