Neighbours: Its two neighbours, China and Pakistan, are a source of great angst for India. While Pakistan is a perennial security irritant—having implications on the stability and certainty of doing business in India—the panda has been giving the tiger sleepless nights by setting a scorching pace of economic growth, creating infrastructural availability and cornering of markets globally.
Realistically, India is no competition to China, but it is fashionable to talk of India and China in the same league.
Also Read | Haseeb A. Drabu’s previous columns
Oil: The old adage that Indian economy is a gamble with the monsoons can now be changed to one that it is now a gamble with the oil prices. Oil prices are now the most critical determinants of inflation and growth. Not only does it work its way through the supply side of the economic system, it also makes a major dent in the fiscal balance.
Professionals: It may not be fully evident yet, but the major change that is taking place in India is that it is becoming a country of professionals. In not so distant a future, it will be more in the hands of professionals rather than politicians. This is not so because some professionals have become politicians, but because market professionals and industrial leaders dominate the economic scene now.
Queues: One thing that has disappeared in the post-reform era are the long serpentine queues. Be it for a consumer durable such as a car, or for utility connections and refills such as gas and telephone, or for essentials such as milk. Money can now be used legitimately, over the table, to jump the queue and buy privileged access, be it tatkal services in passports, trains and telephones.
Resources: The biggest deficit that threatens India’s sustained long-term growth is the natural resources deficit. India’s 9% growth is bound to be thwarted by lack of raw materials unless global resource bases are accessed on a long-term basis. The situation in the commodity markets the world over is so bad that it is taking geo-political overtones.
Scams: The new economy, contrary to the theoretical literature and expectations, has been full of scams. Starting with the scams in the equity markets, these moved on to the broader financial markets, to the corporate sector and finally to the government’s decisions in the deregulated industries. If one were to run a statistical correlation between the incidence and extent of liberalization, it will be difficult to argue that the two are not linked.
Telecom: One of the biggest symbols of new India is telecom; as much in real provision of services as in the scam part of it. This sector and its policy management reflects the microcosmic reality of new India where Lucifer and the archangel have both been at work. Notwithstanding the heads that have rolled on its account, the mobile phone services have transformed lives and business of millions.
UID: Quite apart from the size, scale and complexity of the data collection, database management which is unparalleled in the world, giving a unique identification number to every Indian resident will change the course and contours of policymaking and improve the delivery of public services. Its significance lies in addressing the most basic structural issue of India: lack of “access”. So far, too much attention has been focused on “entitlement”. UID by improving “access” to services and resources—food, health, finance, education, employment—will change the “entitlements” as these are driven by access.
Water: With one-third of the households not having access to safe drinking water, and 50% of the villages having no source of protected drinking water, India is a severely water-stressed economy. In a list of 122 countries rated on the quality of potable drinking water, India ranked a lowly 120.
X-factor: Demographic dividend, knowledge base, technology skills are all advantages that make the India story. But the X-factor still is, what it was 50 years ago: the growth of the economy continues to be based on domestic demand and consumption rather than manufacturing-driven export growth. It is the home market advantage that still propels the overall economic growth and also helps India cruise at a healthy rate of growth in an uncertain world.
Youngistan: It may have been a glib ad line, but as it turned out, it actually represents the demographics of the country. India is the youngest nation in the world. With 600 million people below 25 and nearly 800 million below 35. Over the next decade the average age of an Indian will be just 29 years, compared with 37 for China and 48 for Japan.
Zoozoo: It is a telling sign of times that the advertisement character, which has overtaken the “utterly-butterly” pigtailed girl of home-grown cooperative Amul in mass appeal, is the Zoozoos promoted by a global conglomerate Vodafone. The Zoozoos text, mail, date, and game, just like the new age Indian, even as the little girl, is still caught up in making political puns. Note: This is the last part of the three- part series on the lexicon of the new Indian economy.
Haseeb A. Drabu is an economist, and writes on monetary and macroeconomic matters from the perspective of policy and practice. Comment are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org