Bangalore: It was a meeting of two worlds - one bogged down by the sub-prime crisis and the other feeling the brunt of it but optimistic about the opportunities ahead of it - as two authors, Thomas Friedman and Nandan Nilekani, provided a perspective on both the US and Indian economies.
In a discussion here on Tuesday titled “Imagining India in a hot, flat and crowded world”, the two drew parallels and differences in the US and Indian economies while sharing their views on changing scenario in both countries.
Eminent author and US journalist Thomas Friedman. Bloomberg / Photo
The greatest worry that troubled Friedman, the well known US journalist and author of various books, including the best seller The World is Flat, is whether the US government would be able to pull through the multi-generational problems, including healthcare, pension reforms energy.
Unless addressed, all these problems could “sink the ship”, he said. “Our government doesn’t work anymore”, he said while wondering whether the new government would be able to address these problems and pull the country through.”
“What Americans want is nation-building at home” and not outside the country, he said.
Infosys co-chairman Nilekani said what was worrying in India “is the dissonance in opportunities that India had and political chaos. “If India could not cash on its opportunities in next five years, it could lose the game.”
Nilekani opined that India’s biggest strength was in its “demographic dividend”, which it needs to cash on. It would be the only young country in an aging economy and it needed to use this opportunity.
Globalization had its advantages and disadvantages and India could use it to its advantage through its demographic dividend that will come in the next two decades.
Agreeing that globalisation had resulted in the sub-prime crisis affecting the world, Friedman, a votary of globalisation, said it was also a result of people being disengaged from the basics and fundamentals of savings and delayed gratification.
Nilekani called for going back to the basics and ensuring a balance between market economy and interest of the state as a whole and set of regulations within which the market economy worked.
Infosys co-chairman and writer Nandan Nilekani. Bloomberg / Photo
On the Satyam scam, Nilekani said while he agreed that it was a blot “I would hesitate to draw a pattern. We have to demonstrate we are clean, practice ethical corporate governance. We are transparent,” he said.
Friedman said that financial scams were as old as history and prevalent in other nations as well. “How we respond to it as a society is the differentiator,” he opined.
Friedman said post 9/11, US appeared to have lost its groove with the concentration being on ‘them’ rather than on us.
On the new opportunities, he said energy technology would be the next IT and countries that had it could be assured of national and economic security.
Expressing concern over climate change, he said blaming others could not solve the problem, it had to be done in a cooperative manner.
However, Nilekani said India should be penalised for entering the fray late though it had to take its own steps internally to reduce carbon emission.