March 08, 2005

Rich in Rhetoric

The Telegraph, 08.03.05

Ashok Mitra needs new ideas for his column. An article, which was supposed to discuss the implications of the assembly elections, has once again become a rant against “imperialistic” foreigners, India’s “rich favouring” economic policy and other such tiresome rhetoric (“Love’s labours lost”, Mar 4). Mitra thinks that now the republic exists only for the rich. He should have said instead that the republic before 1991 used to exist only for the rich. In the 13 years of liberalization which Mitra so hates, millions of Indians have been lifted out of poverty. China, one may argue, has done the job faster. Guess why? Faster liberalization. If the pro-rich policies failed so miserably, as Mitra would have us believe, why is the difference so stark between the countries under the “iron triangle” and those in western Europe? Why is it that North Korea is a wasteland and South Korea a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development? Why are the east Asian tigers so highly developed while the South American communist states are not? The evidence goes against Mitra.

Mitra disagrees with allowing foreign direct investment in retail, construction and mining. Why should our miners continue to work in medieval conditions just in order to keep out foreign technology? What is wrong in letting in the American retail giants if they help improve their Indian counterparts? Greater competition has produced stronger domestic firms. Look at Wipro, Infosys, Satyam, Dr Reddy's, Ranbaxy — the list could go on.

Mitra thinks that allowing FDI in construction would mean alteration of India’s landscape. Does he think Mumbai’s slums are part of India’s proud heritage? I want to see a Shanghai repeated and bettered in Mumbai. But Mitra of course would rather have the slums.

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