David Frum

06.02.12

India Slowing Down?

So warns the Economist:

India has grown pretty consistently at 6% since the mid 1980s, with the exception of a faster period in 2004-2007. What looked like a step up in trajectory now looks like a one-off blip driven by a global boom, an uncharacteristic bout of tight fiscal policy and an unsustainable burst of corporate optimism. Political history may have to be rewritten too. The reformers of 1991, who include the present prime minister, have turned out to be not visionaries, but pragmatists without a deep commitment to liberalisation who have been unable to build a lasting consensus among voters and the political class in favour or reform.

6% might still seem pretty good. Trouble is, it might not be good enough:

India, unlike the other BRIC countries, is still desperately poor. One businessman and guru interviewed by your correspondent recently declared that "the next fifteen years will be India's worst since independence" and that there was a one-in-ten chance of a revolution. If India's economic miracle turns out to have been a mirage, it will not be so easy to dismiss that kind of talk as cranky. There is already widespread disgust at corruption. And at least ten million young folk will enter the workforce every year for the next decade or so. They will be coming to the big cities, looking for jobs that won't be created if India expands at a rickshaw rate of growth. Talk of a demographic dividend may turn back into talk of a time bomb.