With a population of over 1.2 billion, India is in a similar position as China was years ago. China lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty by itself due to its unprecedented economic growth. India may not have incredible growth, but with a large population and a growing role in international markets, there is huge potential to reduce poverty enormously.
A UN report compared the differences in growth between both China and India, both being high-growth, high-population states. The report outlines China and India’s differing political systems and openness to foreign markets as strong factors that contributed to both increased growth and high reduction in poverty. India’s lack of poverty reduction is in part due to the country not being able to fully leverage tools that could have led to greater economic growth similar to China’s. Lack of infrastructure spending and not being an “attractive destination for financial capital until 2004” has also constrained India’s economic potential. Coupled with the 2008 economic crisis, these factors all hurt India’s poverty reduction at the time.
Now, India has a chance to make up for lost time. As one of the countries with the most people in poverty in the world, public policy in India has a substantial impact on the future of the globally impoverished. In 2011, the percentage of India’s population under the national poverty line was over 20 percent. What is needed for India to meet its own domestic challenge of reducing poverty and simultaneously have an influence on the global statistics of poverty?
Today, millions of people in India do not have access to toilets. Sewage systems in many cities are outdated, broken, unhygienic or simply nonexistent. These facts are signifiers of the investments that India needs to make in order to help alleviate suffering of the lives of many poor citizens. Infrastructure of all types must be heavily sought after by government officials. This would allow for rural towns to have greater access to goods and services and provide better services to the nation, such as sewage and improved public health.
Education is still below ideal in India as well. It is well documented that education for both sexes is vital to creating a base of knowledge with which workers are likely to have more social mobility and job opportunities. The literacy rate in India is about 65 percent. Improving basic literacy translates to creating a section of future workers who can occupy jobs that grow rapidly in developing nations, thus preparing a workforce for tomorrow.
With hundreds of millions still in poverty, India could be the next bastion of poverty reduction if the right steps are taken. Nothing revolutionary is needed to change the course of millions of Indian livelihoods, but adhering to the tried and proven concepts would go a long way. Now that India has overcome its past stumbles and has emerged onto the world scene, it has a chance to take a look around and see where the paths diverge. Choosing a path that invests heavily in basic needs for the poor, such as education, public health and infrastructure, would go a long way in ensuring a strong economic future for a country that has yet to fully extend its wings.
– Martin Yim