Some doubts for India’s Century

Projects delays and Cost overruns: My development dream may seem Utopian. Is it unavoidable? Does it mean lack of better project management and better managers for the projects and that also in this land full with great project managers who compete and excel with world managers in all shorts of projects?

The Infrastructure and Project Monitoring Division of The ministry of statistics and programme implementation in its latest notes report that “on 605 projects worth Rs 267,815 crore, about Rs 105,146 crore have already been spent. But around 248 projects are way behind schedule. Another 149 projects, though approved, have not even been commissioned, and 46 other projects are waiting for their completion schedules to be updated. Only a small number of 22 projects are ahead of schedule, while 14 are on schedule. “The overall cost overrun with respect to original cost is 21.5 per cent, mainly because of delays, which range from one month to 13 years!

How can any sane citizen relish this story of government delays and colossal waste of public money on projects ‘for the people’? Why can’t we improve our productivity and complete the projects in time and perhps ahead of the target dates? It is certainly doable.

Conditions for business in India: The World Bank’s study, known as Doing Business in 2005, has come out recently, with a wealth of comparative data showing the ease or difficulty of commencing a business, hiring and firing people, accessing credit, closing a business and firing workers. Just to give one aspect- Singapore requires just seven procedures and takes eight days for a business to be started. In addition, the cost that the businessman incurs is just 1.2 per cent of the income per capita. The corresponding figures for India are 11 procedures, 89 days and 49.5 per cent of the income per capita. Even China, with its suspicion of private industry, takes 41 days in 14.5 per cent per capita income to start up a business.

How can there be more FDI unless these policies are undone? Will the babus in the ministries allow this to happen even though the economist PM or Lawyer FM may wish that to happen and happen fast?

India’s position in knowledge economy: In a study made public recently, the World Bank declares that despite India’s impressive performance in the last few years, its overall position has not shown any significant improvement in knowledge sector. Despite significant advances in telephone, computer and internet penetration, India has fallen slightly behind because so many other countries have advanced even faster. Our tele-density, internet expansion, and computer penetration is far behind. Government is to cut down the tariff and improve the core infrastructure to move fast.

Corruption the biggest speed-breakers of growth: Transparency International in its recent report has ranked India a lowly 90 in a total of 145 countries- India has scored quantitatively 2.8 on a scale of 10. And TI estimates that Indian taxpayers lose a whooping $ 7 billion per year in bribery and similar deals. May be that this estimate is on lower side.

In an article “India Reform Initiative” on why corruption is so rampant in India, Utkarch Kansal describes how impossible it is for a common man to own a roof, provide good education to his children and hope for a peaceful retirement in India using normal and honest means. But how can we digest it, when people behind it are the best brains of the country who start their career with big dowry booty?

Indians form a third of world’s illiterates: The 2005 Global Education Monitoring Report, which incorporates the 2001 census data, has just been released and the India’s ranking slips down one place further – 106th out of the 127 countries surveyed.

” One in every three illiterate persons in the world. With 34% of the illiterate population in the world,

” India has the largest number of illiterates by far, with second-placed China at 11%.

” Enrolment ratio – at 82.3%, almost close to the world average – ranking 94th
” India’s adult literacy ranking, from 121 last year to 105 this year thanks to the change from 1991 figures to 2001 figures. Yet, the adult literacy rate at 61.3% is still way below the 76% average for developing countries and 81.7% global average.

” Survival to class 5 has actually declined marginally to 61.2% from 62% last year, and is way below the global average of 83.3%.

” The gender-specific index is the most worrying. The average years spent in school for boys, at 10 years, is close to the global norm (10.7 years) and the average for developing countries (10.1 years). But, for girls the figure drops to 7.9 years, way below the global average of 9.8 years.

Some remarks: And then I find World Bank president making a remark recently in an article published in “Times of India” -“Despite the impressive gains made by India in the assault on poverty in the last two decades, more than a quarter of India’s one billion people are still below the official poverty line; that amounts to more than 250 million people, about a quarter of all the world’s poor, living here in India. Perhaps a few hundred million more remain vulnerable to slipping back into poverty by a single shock such as an illness or natural disaster.

That is not all. India’s huge numbers of illiterate people, children out of school, people suffering from communicable diseases, and infant, child and maternal deaths all amount to massive proportions of the respective world totals.”

Some trade practices of Indian businessmen: When I find my trader friends such as Mr. Maheswari following a cheaper and easier way to import textiles or toilet papers to fast buck, I get pained. Surprisingly, Mr. Maheswari is a mechanical engineer himself, but he couldn’t answer my query about the reasons why he can’t get our manufacturers develop the same products at better price.

And then I get a comment on my entry on India”s century. I quoting it below and you may go on my site and access it.
“The Indian engineers I have interviewed have poor fundamentals. Sure there are a few who have spectacular skills. But I believe Chinese engineers on average have better fundamentals in Mathematics and Science compared with the equivalent javascript/ejb/buzzword-of-the-year engineer that is produced by India.”

Who is wrong myself or the writer of the letter? Can’t someone highlight this comparison and provide some factual data based on experience, as I am not qualified enough to disapprove it?

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