Fazal Rizvi & Radhika Gorur
Google “India growth” and you get some 269 million wide-ranging entries, most of them celebratory in their tone regarding India’s economic success. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherji asserts, for example, in an interview in Washington DC, that despite monetary tightening, he sees no reason
to revise the projected growth figure of 8.5 per cent in the current year.1 As a market, the size and spending power of India’s middle classes makes the world’s mouth water – the McKinsey Quarterly expects India’s middle class to expand from 5 per cent to 40 percent over the next couple of decades, to create the world’s fifth-largest consumer market2. Although some contest these predictions3,
the triumphalism expressed in a recent ‘India Shining’ campaign appears persistent. As a political slogan, ‘India Shining’ refers to the overall feeling of economic optimism, in light, in particular, of the Indian IT boom. Developed initially as part of an Indian government campaign intended to promote India internationally, the slogan served to highlight the potential India had to become a major economic power.
Not everyone has bought into this hype, of course. Studies at Harvard and the University of Michigan, reported in the New York Times, suggest that India is shining for a much smaller group that was often assumed. Its prosperity has not lessened malnutrition among children, and its affluence may have only benefited the privileged in society4. In a Business Week Roundtable that asked ‘Will India ever grow as fast as China?’ Subroto Bagchi suggests that growth at China’s pace may threaten democracy5. The Australian reports that despite an astonishing rate of growth, the mood among many in India is gloomy. Even beneficiaries of India’s boom, like Wipro Chairperson Azim Premji, together with other business leaders, retired Supreme Court justices and former governors of India’s central bank, have issued an open letter to the government saying things are seriously amiss and that the benefits of India’s huge growth have not reached the poorer sections of India’s population6. Elsewhere, discussion is around India’s importance as a stabilizing influence
in a dangerously volatile region. A story in the Daily Telegraph7 titled The smelly truth of India’s incredible growth ruefully suggests that ‘India’s great strength and power is that the world wants to believe its ‘incredible growth story’ (IGS) and that the great tortoises of the developed world are so desperate to believe India can drive new growth that they cannot smell the truth: India talks a good game, tells a cracking yarn, but cannot finish what it starts.’