India’s triumphs and challenges
January 10, 2011
A year is not a long time in the life of a country, much less a
civilisation such as India. But India has over the past year, surged
back from a dip in its growth caused by the global economic slowdown.
The resurgence is testimony to the strength of India's evolving
economy, sound policies, and the energy and enterprise of its people.
India's sustained growth, and the promise of revitalisation it holds
for the world economy, has helped make it a major player on the global
Its voice is heard at the G20 table. India also played a key role in Cancun in
December to bridge the gap between developed and developing countries.
The voice of India carries weight. There are development lessons to be
learnt and shared as India seeks to meet the aspirations of a billion
people, by putting in place better infrastructure and social services.
The aim is to be inclusive, while not intrusive on the environment.
India's experience is a magnet to others. Take food security and food
price volatility, a subject of vibrant debate in India. Dairy farmers
from Zambia and other African nations have learnt from farmers at the
Anand cooperatives about India's "White Revolution" in milk
India's "green revolution" of the 1960s increased food yields through
new seed varieties, fertilisers, and irrigation. Today we need to
reach beyond these "white" and "green" revolutions to address food
security and food price volatility with increases in productivity and
technological innovation — areas where the World Bank is partnering
with India and others.
The World Bank Group also has drawn from India's experience in other
areas: our new access to information policy draws on freedom of
information laws in India and the United States.
The World Bank's innovation with India offers experience for others.
The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has given 20 million children an education
through creative initiatives such as schools on boats. Some 90,000
people in Mumbai were resettled constructively as part of a project to
build new roads through the densely-populated city.
While India can rightly take its place on the global stage, the
country still faces a need for a trillion dollars of infrastructure
investment to ensure economic growth overcomes poverty.
Almost no Indian city has water 24 hours a day, seven days a week;
long-standing infrastructure and service delivery bottlenecks stand in
the way of creating more inclusive cities. About 40 percent of Indian
villages have no access to electricity. Twenty nine percent —about 100
million city-dwellers — still live in slums. These statistics
highlight just how the country needs unparalleled resources to
accelerate its response to its development challenges.
Money alone is not enough. As the World Bank has seen around the
world, and as India has been recognizing, the bigger challenge is
ensuring that public money is spent well. Efficient and transparent
project management, continuous monitoring, greater accountability of
institutions, and a focus on long-term sustainability are required to
support high and inclusive growth. These transformations often
encounter obstacles and sometimes face resistance. But India is
developing a shared vision, clearer policies, and skilled people to
achieve that goal. Investing in high quality education for all Indians
will be critical for broadening opportunities.
To integrate sustainability concerns with its growth strategy, the
recent debate in India has highlighted the need to identify and assess
more explicitly the environmental costs of some development plans.
Rapid and sustained economic growth can make heavy demands on natural
resources, such as land, water, and forests. The associated impacts
on people's health and well-being are often underestimated.
Environmental degradation can hurt poor people, making the management
of environmental risks an important part of any responsible growth
The debate on the environmental dimension of economic policies is good
for a democracy, and India is the world's largest. Your democratic
debate will bring solutions to light: clearer norms for quarrying or
mining in tribal or forest lands; better river-basin planning for
operating hydropower projects; guidelines for building roads close to
protected areas — all initiatives to foster better development.
There are, of course, challenges to ensuring the environment is
explicitly taken into account in developmental strategies and
policies. Resources are also needed to ensure that people affected by
a developmental project can share in its planned benefits. These are
investments in the future, in inclusive growth that will draw on the
energies and capabilities of all Indians.
As India builds on its success and turns to the challenges ahead, the
WB Group will share our experience to help build better, smarter and
"greener" infrastructure for this and future generations. And we
will, in turn, share India's experience with others. Ours is a lasting
and deepening partnership.
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