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Monday, August 21, 2006

India and China Sail in Different Boats

This arrticle was written by Shailendra Kakani, the Research Head of Commodity Research Group and the Managing Editor of

Chinese economy is already three times larger than the Indian one. China has seven times more Internet users and ten times more mobile phone users. While China has a trade surplus amounting to $200 billion with the USA alone, India's entire external trade amounts to the same figure. While China is registering trade surplus every year, India's trade deficits are growing to disastrous levels. And most importantly, Inflation in China is almost zero while in India even the government figures put it at 5+%, while the public estimates are anywhere above ten per cent.

More than 200 million Indians live in slums and shanties bereft of any sanitation facilities. Millions of school students don't see a teacher for weeks. More than 70 million children stay out of the school and work as child labour, often in very hazardous industries. By a former Prime Minister's own admission "269 million Indians are food insecure."

The phone user numbers are outdated. China today has 440 million cell phone users and 350 million fixed line phones in use. India's cellular phone users passed 100 million this year and around 48 million phones are connected by fixed lines.

While in China only 10% children under five are born underweight, in India 's score is 53% - far higher than Mexico's 8% and Pakistan's 26%. The UN MMR numbers for India (540) are several times higher than those for other developing countries like China (56), Brazil (260), Thailand (44), Mexico (83) or even Sri Lanka (92). India has far lower percentage of antenatal coverage (60%) compared to China. According to a study by Arati Rao "In India only 43% of deliveries involve a skilled birth attendant compared to between 86% and 99% in Mexico, China, Sri Lanka, Brazil and Thailand." Not surprising why China scores 0.718 on the human development index and why India clocks in a measly 0.571.

Even today many Chinese criticize the reform in the public health system in China. But China is still far ahead of India in any index conserning the public health. China even did better than todays' India since China had the low cost but functioning "barefoot doctor " system that covered almost every corner of the country. Unfortunately, system a good system was "reformed".

China now produces over 450 million tonnes of food grains, while India continues to struggle to maintain 200 million ton record achieved a couple of years back.

A mere 21% of all farms in India have access to irrigation; remaining depend on rain gods to eke out one single crop. Farmers are crying because they are being supplied with rotten seeds, spurious insecticides, and last but not the least, no information.

China's record grain production of around 500 million tons was reached in late 1990s. India's record production should be around 250 million tons if I am not wrong. China has a much better irrigation system that covers around 80% of farming land largely thanks for hard work before the reform (Many may not believe it due to both Chinese and western propaganda, but it is true that most of Chinese irrigation system in China was completed before the reform.) China also has invested a lot in agriculture technology research. Today, China is a leader in hybrid rice and gene modified grains.

A recent article in Economic Times quoted the latest Development Policy Review of the World Bank which says that the typical doctor at a primary health centre in Delhi is less competent than in Tanzania, and the chances of his recommending harmful treatment are 50:50. "One in five children drop out before class V. Teacher absenteeism is rampant, and half the Standard V children in five states cannot read Class II texts. Water supply is just four hours a day in Delhi, 2.5 in Bangalore and 1.5 in Chennai, against round-the-clock supply in Jakarta or Colombo. Electricity supply is terrible, and 30% of it is stolen with impunity."

Finally, the author said:

What I wish to achieve by writing this article is simple: India and China cannot be - and should not be - clubbed together. They were in the same boat fifty years back; when India was just freed from the colonial rule and China was reconstructing after the Second World War. But as of today there is only one valid comparison among them: that the two have the largest populations to support. Apart from this there is nothing which forms a common denominator among the two nations. The way things are progressing in India, Bangalore will never become another Beijing and Bombay will never become another Shanghai. It is time the international media readjusts its perspective and present a more honest view to its readers.

The full copy of the article is available here.

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