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A $5 Trillion Indian Economy

Context:

Recently the Prime Minister declared an extension of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojna for five years in an election rally in Chhattisgarh. Notably, 2028 is the year the government anticipates India to attain the status of the world’s third-largest economy, boasting a GDP of $5 trillion. Even with a $5 trillion GDP, a significant portion of the Indian population still grapple with hunger. The broader inquiry delves into who will truly benefit from the accelerated push towards these economic targets.

Relevance:

GS3- Indian Economy- Inclusive Growth

Mains Question:

As India targets becoming a $5 Trillion economy by 2028, who will truly benefit from the accelerated push towards this economic target remains a question. Analyse by drawing lessons from the current state of other countries like Japan. (15 marks, 250 words)

Examining the Current State of Japan- the World’s Third-largest Economy by GDP:

  • Reports indicate a concerning occurrence of suicide every 20 minutes in Japan. Approximately 15 lakh Japanese individuals have isolated themselves, engaging in a severe form of social withdrawal known as hikikomori.
  • Disturbingly, some elderly parents resort to renting actresses who pose as their daughters on Sundays because their real daughters no longer visit.
  • Instances of kodokushi, or lonely deaths, where individuals are found in their apartments days or weeks after passing away, are a grim reality.
  • Japan’s ascent to the third-largest economy has not uniformly elevated the well-being of its populace; instead, it has marginalized the vulnerable, unraveling the fabric of family and community bonds due to the relentless pursuit of economic growth.
  • The rise of the high-value industrial economy led to the erosion of personal and professional relationships, causing the breakdown of multi-generational family and social structures. This was particularly challenging for the traditional, semi-skilled workforce.
  • Workers migrated from rural areas and satellite towns to cities in pursuit of “salaryman” jobs, only to find themselves ill-equipped for the technological advancements in high-growth sectors. Many fell through the cracks, experiencing financial collapse and social withdrawal as a result.

China’s Growth:

  • For four decades, Japan held the position of the world’s second-largest economy, driven by manufacturing and exports. However, the 2008 global financial crisis triggered a downturn in the Japanese economy.
  • Reduced consumer spending, shrinking exports, and diminishing government incentives followed. Meanwhile, China experienced a manufacturing boom, surpassing Japan to become the world’s second-largest economy.
  • Despite this demotion, Japan exhibited commendable ego-free economic diplomacy. Upon slipping to the third position, Japan’s leadership openly welcomed China’s ascent, acknowledging that sustained demand from the most populous country could benefit Japan’s exports.
  • This pragmatic approach has resulted in China becoming Japan’s largest trading partner, demonstrating the wisdom of embracing competition in the global political economy. Japan has maintained its third position in world GDP rankings for the past 14 years.

Economic Revolution in India and Personal Well-being:

  • A substantial disparity exists in contemporary India. Presently, the Government of India asserts that the nation stands on the brink of an economic revolution.
  • However, the pursuit of the $5 trillion target raises concerns, particularly regarding the well-being of the 80 crore individuals who will continue to rely on free rations in 2028.
  • The pillars of India’s economic growth—capital, productivity, and labor—reveal a stark reality, with data indicating that achieving a $5 trillion economy is an ambitious aspiration for over four-fifths of the population.
  • Examining capital distribution unveils a considerable imbalance: as of 2021, 1% of the population owned around 41% of the nation’s wealth, while half of the population possessed a mere 3%, according to Oxfam.
  • Paradoxically, the push toward a $5 trillion economic milestone is largely controlled by resource-rich power brokers, leaving low-resource citizens to fund the investment for this ambitious target.
  • Approximately 64% of the total Goods and Services Tax (GST) is contributed by the bottom 50% of the population, while the top 10% contributes a mere 3% of GST.
  • Simultaneously, labor, a critical driver of growth, faces constraints due to questionable educational and skill achievements and a lag in digital literacy. Although efforts are underway to enhance productivity through digital and physical infrastructure, challenges persist.
  • The government acknowledges that affluent individuals are positioning themselves to achieve the $5 trillion target just before the 2029 general election. This is anticipated to enhance India’s influence and global standing, along with bolstering the Prime Minister’s prominence on the world stage.

Government Initiatives:

The government’s articulated tools and sectors for reaching this goal encompass the “digital economy, fintech, energy transition, climate change, GST, Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, decrease in corporate tax, Make in India, Start-Up India, Production Linked Incentives,” all underscored by the imperative of “inclusive growth.”

Challenges with Government Measures:

  • These cutting-edge sectors and tools are not inherently accessible to the marginalized 80 crore citizens and millions of others, preventing them from seizing opportunities in artificial intelligence, data science, robotics, or fintech in the coming years.
  • Moreover, there are inherent issues with Prime Minister Modi’s assurance that India will become the third-largest economy in five years.
  • Firstly, with a per capita income of $2,400, India ranks 149th among 194 countries in 2022. The per capita income serves as a crucial indicator of a population’s well-being, and India’s projection at $5 trillion is unknown.
  • Secondly, the central challenge in achieving a $5 trillion GDP lies in its distribution, as indicated by the inequality index. While China and Japan boast values above 50, suggestive of more equitable societies, India’s value stands at 21.9, indicating a substantial disparity.

Conclusion:

As India progresses toward the $5 trillion goal, there is a looming question of whether the divide between the two Indias will deepen. While the nation may be on track to achieve this economic milestone, a significant portion of the population remains stranded in the slower lanes of an older India, observing as the new economic caravans surge ahead.


February 2024
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