Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Economic Growth in India and the Gandhi-Nehrus - Update

"Why is it that during the years that your family ruled India, India's per capita income was growing less than the world average? And yet, in the years since your family relinquished the prime ministership of India, India's per capita income has grown substantially faster than the world average?" 

This statement, by a participant in an event in Singapore addressed at Rahul Gandhi happens to be factually incorrect. However, the participant, who describes himself as an author, has now shifted the goalpost to assert that he meant India’s per capita income grew less than the world average for 1947-89. This is well-known and sits uncomfortably with the original assertion given that both the World Bank and Angus Maddison data-sets show that if you consider the years a Gandhi or a Nehru was a PM, it is not the case that the growth rate of India was lower than the world. In a recent Op-Ed I did the exercise with the World Bank data-set:

Repeating the exercise with the Maddison data-set that has a longer time horizon going back to 1950 yields the same conclusion. 

A scholar or a researcher who is serious about facts (and I am not at all concerned with formal degrees or qualifications) would acknowledge that the original statement was not correct as stated and suggest a reformulation that can be backed up empirically. But instead we have a self-congratulatory op-ed in the Swarajya

The long and meandering account repeats basic facts that are well-known, repeats ad nauseam why the Gandhi-Nehru family is to blame for everything, but provides no evidence in support of the original statement. And as one would expect, unable to objectively back up his claim he resorts to political name-calling of those who have pointed out the error - for example, referring to me as "Congress’ thinkers (like Maitreesh Ghatak)"  without a shred of evidence to support the connection (a reference that has since been removed by the Swarajya editorial department). 

For the record, I am a left-leaning liberal who does not identity with any specific political party.  As a liberal I oppose any form of authoritarianism, including the ones in the current or former socialist countries. Being liberal means I place the importance of civil/democratic/human rights above everything else and cherish social inclusiveness. I am left-leaning in the sense of being progressive and placing poverty-eradication to be the main objective of economic policy. At the same time, I am economically pragmatic and support private enterprise (including non-profits) while acknowledging the necessity of a public sector to do what private enterprise cannot or would not do. My political biases are based on issues, not partisanship. Any party that upholds some or all of these values will have my support.  

Everyone is entitled to their opinions. Everyone (including me) have their political biases. Facts are another matter.  They are objective and can be independently verified. How you interpret them is subjective. Scholars and researchers can tell the difference.

As I said to one of several who disagree with me but engage in a civil manner in Twitter about facts and logic (a genuinely positive aspect of the platform) debating is like football. You want your "side" to win, but fairly. You need good opponents to raise your game. And, no team can or should win forever - not good for the game. 

And about this gentleman's partisan leaning? Just look at the profiles of his Twitter followers or the slant of the television channels where he seems proud to have appeared. Why is it that the most partisan are the first to charge others of being partisan? 

Here are the links to the World Bank and the Maddison series for those who want to check it


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