Towards the end of his column, Niranjan highlights three key areas for India to work on in the years to come:
- Jobs, and those preferably in manufacturing.
There is no sugarcoating this: we need to do much better in this regard, and if anything, we have been doing marginally worse in the last decade or so.
- Irregular and inefficient access to energy.
We’ve tried to solve this problem the way teenagers clean their rooms. And the results have been exactly as bad as in the case of those teenagers. Niranjan offers hope by speaking about the transition to green energy, and I wish I could share his optimism.
- Political economy: will India resemble East Asia or Latin America?
I put on my Straussian hat to think about the points Niranjan is making here, and I would encourage you to do the same.
Each of these points is spot on, to which I would add the following:
- More expenditure on the capital side.
We need to build. More roads, more airports, more dams, more electricity projects, more ports, more housing units, more everything. One of my favorite factoids in the recent past has been about China pouring more concrete between 2012-2016 than the USA did in the entire 20th century. India needs to join this conversation, and real quick. But that is a hard political economy problem.
- Preserve and improve the quality of our institutions.
Easier said than done, but the quality of our executive, our legislature, our judiciary, our monetary policy authority, our media, our regulators and our public policy institutions needs to not regress and become better over time. There is an unfortunate tendency to have a discussion about this very quickly turn into finger-pointing and yelling, but the sad truth is that these institutions are nowhere near as good as they need to be, and are arguably getting worse. Institutions matter!
- Better education, better health:
Not more schools and colleges, not more degrees. But better know-how, a better trained work-force and a focus on improving the quality of education at all levels rather than the quantity of institutes and organizations.
India’s healthcare system is a mess, and we don’t yet realize how bad it is. But twenty years down the line, there is waiting for us a ticking time bomb: a rapidly ageing population of India’s size, going up against our healthcare system as it currently exists is something that should fill all of us with dread.
Each of these are truly hard problems, with no easy solutions. But hey, nobody ever claimed that this was going to be a walk in the park. If you are a student of economics in India today, you have your work cut out for you, and time is of the essence.
My thanks to Niranjan Rajadhakshya for writing this excellent column, and I hope his column and these blogposts spark many conversations, debates and projects in the days to come.