India: Tomorrow’s economic vision

12th Jun, 2014

From a theoretical point of view, the BJP could be predicted to strive for economic success with the overriding aim to rival China in the Asia region. Or, it may be thought that India’s compliance with international norms will improve as they seek to balance India’s vast and long-standing trade deficit by growing export relationships and through friendly foreign affairs

What does an Indian say about it all? A Mumbai rickshaw driver told me “very hard job for Modi Ji- lots of hungry bellies to fill”. And he’s not wrong. Modi’s Congress predecessor Mr Singh may not have been known for his political rapport or public presence, but he reportedly pulled more people out of poverty through policy than any politician before him, in India or otherwise.

The task facing Mr Modi and his government is such a caricature of enormity it would be funny, expect it is so solemnly not. Each month one million jobs need to be created to provide for the ever-growing work force. Half of the world’s ‘poor’ live in India, and it is hard to contemplate that India’s social spending at present is less than that of Malawi.

Modi is divisive, unsurprising in a country of over a billion, and with religious, class, regional and historical threads so complex it is remarkable they continue to live under one flag. His greatest success might just be holding it all together under the green, white and orange, although I hope he is able to both aim and reach higher climbs.

India, for better or for worse, is likely to be compared to it’s dragon neighbor for a significant time to come. The difficulty for India is that in being a democracy (and the world’s biggest at that), it has certain expectations to fulfill which China can avoid.

In many ways India is trailblazing. No country in history has had a democratic election of this size, and it deserves all the praise it gets for organizing and executing this year’s in such a peaceful and overall streamlined fashion.

India has colossal inefficiencies from railways to federal governments spending frantically towards the end of a budget so the money is not taken away from them. For instance, my road in Mumbai was dug up and relaid, in exactly the same fashion, so as the money given to them next year is the same, as it is being ‘spent’. Yet despite gaping holes in infrastructure, India still runs, creaking along tracks which can’t hold any more.

A lamentable correlation of history is that human rights suffer in aiming for economic growth. Security and development are included in the rhetoric at round tables the world over, yet quite understandably, are struggled to be achieved, and the sacrifice of one for the other is a conundrum facing all developing nations.

Despite their internal predicaments, India and China  are still looked at to some extent to drive the ongoing recovery, and global ideas about trade, labour and productivity mean that as long as GDP is on the up, the importance of the civilian fades.

If Modi manages to pull the rabbit out of the hat and reverse India’s slowing growth, feed the hungry, provide the jobs, educate the children, reduce the corruption, build the roads, the pipes and the cables, all whilst retaining some sense of civilian peace (time for a breath), it will say something about development which no other country has yet said. Which is this: trickle down economics is never as far reaching as the theory or its proponents suggest, but with the right amount of intervention combined with a leader who sees the importance of primary schools before universities, and of plumbing before airports, might mean that all Indians finally see evidence of Mother India’s much talked about prowess.


Grace Lown is an Economics graduate born and raised in London. After graduating with her MSc in International Relations, she earned her wings in a London think-tank. Currently living and working in Delhi, India.