ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Arvind PanagariyaSubscribe to Arvind Panagariya

Does India Really Suffer from Worse Child Malnutrition Than Sub-Saharan Africa?

A common continuing criticism of the economic reforms in India has been that despite accelerated growth and all-around poverty reduction, the country continues to suffer from worse child malnutrition than nearly all Sub-Saharan African countries with lower per capita incomes. This paper argues that this narrative, nearly universally accepted around the world, is false. It is the artefact of a faulty methodology that the World Health Organisation has pushed and the United Nations has supported. If appropriate corrections are applied, in all likelihood, India will be found to be ahead of Sub-Saharan Africa in child malnutrition, just as in other vital health indicators.

Growth and Reforms during 1980s and 1990s

It has been argued that reforms in India cannot be credited with higher growth because growth rate had crossed the 5 per cent mark in the 1980s, well before the launch of the July 1991 reforms. This is a wrong reading of the Indian experience for two reasons. First, liberalisation was already under way during the 1980s and it played a crucial role in stimulating growth during that decade. Second, growth in the 1980s was fragile and unsustainable. The more systematic and systemic reforms of the 1990s, discussed in detail, gave rise to more sustainable growth. The paper concludes with a discussion of why the growth rate in India nevertheless continues to trail that of China

Vote against Reforms?

No matter how one looks at the election results, they fail to support the hypothesis that the people of India have spoken against the reforms. The Congress agenda itself being pro-reform, a vote against reforms should have actually placed the third parties in a position to form the government. This has not been the case. The main constraint on the reforms process will be defined by the compulsions of coalition politics.

India at Doha: Retrospect and Prospect

In developing our future negotiating positions, we need to think far more systematically than we have done so far. At least three strategic conclusions can be drawn from the Uruguay Round and Doha experiences. First, we need to consider the direct benefits to us of any demand we put forward in the negotiations. Second, diplomacy requires that we define our negotiating position positively rather than negatively. Finally, and most importantly, prior to defining our negotiating position, we must think hard about the end-game. By repeatedly staking a position that is far from what we eventually accept, as has been the case in the UR Agreement and the Doha Declaration, we lose credibility in future negotiations and risk being isolated. This risk has now increased manifold with the entry of China into WTO.

Millennium Budget

The clearest signal coming from the budget is that political stability is irrelevant when it comes to the pace of economic reforms in India. Why, otherwise, does the budget have the appearance of the same old annual exercise in which finance ministers practise the art of offering minimal policy changes necessary to maintain their image as reformers? Why is there no attempt to use the first budget of the NDA government's five-year mandate as the launch pad for a programme that would take India to its deserved status of a mature economy by the year 2010?
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