Comparing diversity issues in India and the European Union, Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya today said the world’s largest democracy is better placed as a cohesive unit than EU and is bound to see high growth rates in the coming decades.
Replying to a question on India often being called a “noisy democracy” at an industry body CII event here, the noted economist said India despite its huge diversity and varied traditions and cultures, has stayed as a single cohesive unit.
Quoting economist Jagdish Bhagwati, Panagariya said that Bhagwati told Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, in response to his comment on India being a noisy democracy, that “You hear the noise, I hear the music”.
“This says it all. Just think about it, Europeans, with far less diversity than India, today are still struggling to become a single state. The whole movement towards a single Europe is ridden with so many difficulties.
“Even as a single monetary union there are fears that Greece might drop out of this union and tomorrow Spain might drop out of this union,” he said.
He added that quite contrary to that, with much greater diversity in India, the country has stayed as a single nation.
“And not only have we stayed together, but the nation has grown over time. Because in today’s noise we tend to forget that in 1950s and 1960s when you go back there were so many separatist movements based on language, etc,” he noted.
On the way ahead, he said: “So I see it as a huge success of India’s democracy. I think I will not have it any other way. In the long run we will see our growth rate in the next 15-30 years return to the rate of 8-10 per cent.”
On steps India needs to take to make its growth more inclusive, Panagariya said India’s nature of growth has been different.
In earlier success stories of Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and China, most recently, growth happened through rapid growth of labour-intensive industry, which created a lot of jobs and then that was led by growth in services sector.
“What we need to do is make the ecosystem better for the labour-intensive industry so that our industrialists can see what can be done through people and what can be done through machines…,” he added.
Panagariya stressed that the thrust should not just be on increasing the use of machines, but for the industry to find the right mix so that the growth can be evenly spread.
On India’s growth potential, he said the scope is “enormous”.