Work in progress

Nov 24 2013, 03:50 IST
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SummaryThe problems are well-known, and there’s not much on the practical way forward. Despite that, the 60 essays in Reimagining India make for an interesting facet of the India growth story

Mckinsey's re-imagining India comes just at a time when controversy has been stoked by Goldman Sachs’ comments on India’s polity. McKinsey brings together independent views of several reputed authors and celebrities. There is the general tendency to hammer the government, which has become a fad these days, as the concept of a ‘government’ is not an entity that responds. There is a proclivity to private enterprise, praise for the Gujarat model and hope in the middle class (also the favourite of McKinsey). The general drift at times is towards self-eulogy and critiques of the present form of governance, which is not unexpected. There is little credit given to the government for anything positive that has happened and hence it is refreshing to read Bill Gates, who puts India on top when it comes to eradicating polio using its own resources, something that wasn’t expected, given the size and population of the country.

There is also a good word from Eric Schmidt, who said that the next Google could come from India. While the senior Google official laments that Internet exposure is low in India at 150 million, he is sanguine that this will pick up to a penetration level of 60-70% in the next five years. He sees the Internet holding stage in education, banking and financial services, lifestyle, e-trading and even better governance, but is wary of censorship.

Most of the views are based on experience or impressionistic views, which read well in newspapers, but may not be based on sound research. Take, for instance, Ruchir Sharma, who runs down India’s performance on the grounds of benefiting from an overflow of global funds and low base, and not due to the ‘managerial genius of New Delhi’. Yet he contradicts himself when he praises some of the BIMARU states that shine, forgetting that they, too, have benefited from the low-base effect. Or a sweeping statement that we go in for reforms only in a crisis. While the 1991 crisis was the trigger, historical experience shows that reforms are spread out across time to enable absorption. It would be facetious to say we went for reforms only in 1991 and then sat back. Similarly, he shows disdain for the government, saying it should abandon the tendency to be ‘self-satisfied and make excuses’. This borders on hubris and arrogance, something that is rarely displayed by even foreign entities. One may assume it is

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