In this episode of Straight Talk Newsroom24x7 Editor-in-Chief Lalit Shastri blows into smithereens a tweet by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who takes a jibe at Business leader Gautam Adanionly to score a political brownie point.
Elon Musk increased his net wealth by $128.9bn, Jeff Bezos by $78.2 billion. But Gautam Adani of India has surpassed both of them in wealth creation during the COVID pandemic.
It is not Adani alone, the wealth of Indian billionaires increased by 35 per cent during the lockdown and by 90 per cent since 2009 to $422.9 billion, ranking India sixth after the US, China, Germany, Russia and France, according to an Oxfam Report released in January this year.
In fact India’s top 100 billionaires saw their fortunes increase by Rs 12.97 trillion. Worldwide, billionaires saw their wealth increase by a staggering $3.9 trillion between March 18 and December 31, 2020.
It is noteworthy that the Adani Group is a multi-sector enterprise engaged in diverse areas that include Renewable Power Generation, Solar Manufacturing, Ports and Terminals, Logistics, Agri Logistics, Industrial Land, Power Transmission, Power Distribution, Gas Distribution, Defence and Aerospace, Edible Oil and Food Products, Fruits, Real Estate, Financial Services, Housing Finance, and Airports.
Speaking at the “JP Morgan India Summit – Future in Focus” in September 2020, Gautam Adani had projected that Indian Economy will be on top by 2050. For the GDP freaks, he rolled out figures and pointed out that the global GDP in 1990 was $38 trillion. Today, 30 years later, it is $90 trillion. In 2050 the global GDP is expected to be about $170 trillion with india, especially due to its geostrategic position and massive market size will have the potential of becoming the second-largest economy in the world.
We all know that there has been a very deep potential impact of COVID-19 lock-down on income levels and consumer spending especially in the unorganised and tertiary sector that left a huge impact on the consumer market worldwide in the initial months of 2020. The dark clouds have continued to hover across board even thereafter for small traders, and daily wage earners.
We also know when markets go into spin under such special circumstances, they undergo massive corrections, and new leaders drive the next surge. In the era of post liberal economy, during the closing decade of the 20th Century, it was consumption that drove the markets to a new high. We entered the new millennium with the internet and worldwide web revolution and the IT giants pumping GDP and growth. This was followed by infrastructure, banking, financial services and insurance. Now since 2020, the COVID situation has altered the markets that are now increasingly driven by the potentially higher role being played by the service utilities, chemicals, rare earths and health sectors.
Rightly, Gautam Adani with a forward looking perspective, has pointed out that Democracy cannot take a cookie-cutter, meaning thereby a typical copybook socialistic approach, In his words, “we should accept that different nations will have their own flavour of democracy and capitalism”.
Addressing the commoners on the street and the countryside, who have suffered endless poverty under successive Congress regimes right through Independence, the former Congress President Rahul Gandhi targetted Gautam Adani, with a tweet on Saturday night- 13th March.
Rahul wrote: “How much did your wealth increase in 2020? Zero. You struggle to survive while he makes rupees 12 Lakh Crore and increases his wealth by 50%. Can you tell me why?”
With this tweet, Rahul has rubbished the potential of a successful enterprise to drive national economy during tough times. For his narrow political ends, he has even stooped too low by targetting a business leader who has beaten all competiton in the global arena. What Rahul has tweeted does not stem from naivety or lack of understanding of what drives enterprise, business and economy but a very diabolic mind.
The source of military conflict with China is complex. It is part military, part Chinese desire of redrawing of Chinese territory, commensurate with their perceived and concocted historical Chinese sway and probably more importantly, Chinese desire to restrict India to low end manufacturing and dominantly consumer market. Both the countries, with their similar population (India 1.3 billion and China 1.44 billion) and burgeoning and wealthier middle-class, are lucrative markets to each other and also other industrial nations.
I have sourced from World Bank data the growth of per capita GDP of both the neighbours, presented in equal footing of US$2010. If we have a look into per capita GDP of both the neighbouring nations, both countries were almost at par in poverty status in sixties and seventies. Both the countries, China under rigorous communist regime and India with hybrid of democratic and socialistic framework, established quite strong scientific base in terms of academic institutions since their independence, following second world war. But no amount of investment in scientific institutions and academia could bring prosperity to their populace. Both countries started their improvement in their lot only when they liberalized their economy, shrugging off restrictive hold of apparatchik and bureaucratic stranglehold on industrial, commercial, banking, marketing and regulatory policies.
Deng Xiaoping, unleashed opening of Chinese economy in early eighties, after consolidating his power base in post Mao transition, following demise of Mao Zedong, Chairman of PRC, in 1976. He rationalised the conflict between communistic ideology and market economy with his famous rationale: “No matter if it is a white cat or black cat; as long as it can catch mouse, it is a good cat.” India followed the path of market liberalization from license raj and era of selective patronage of businesses, in early nineties.
From the plot of growth of per capita GDP of both the countries, we see the inflection point almost took a decade after initiation of liberalization. In case of China, it was early 1990s and in case of India, it was early 2000s.
The architect of China’s liberalization could witness early fructification of his risky policy. Deng passed away in 1997. Afterall, it is no easy task to shake off the shibboleth of well entrenched political system, accustomed to sense of supremacy in everything. But one thing is clear, once a policy environment is established, successive rulers of both countries augmented their GDP in their speeds.
One interesting point is to be noted. Chinese economy got one more inflection point within almost a decade after the first inflection point, at early 2000s, accelerating their growths further. In fact, second inflection ushered in dominance of China in world economy and surprising growth in high tech, capital goods, space technology, military prowess. In case of India the second inflection point seem not to be arriving even after two decades or so after the first inflection. Our growth rate remains moderate and stagnant. We seem to be losing out in high tech and capital goods industry. Our telecom industry has huge ingress of Chinese equipment, our auto industry has less and less of India designed product, our mining industry is importing more and more heavy Chinese equipment, we do not have any respectable presence at all in semiconductor and electronics market. In space our neighbours and friends in Asia are just moving too fast. A look at our trade reveals, raw materials dominate our export against import of finished goods, naturally pushing our trade deficit upwards. You look around. We are moving but we are facing more and more catching up to do. We are good at many things, but we can hardly claim to be too good for a few things. In my view, the first inflection is because of liberalization of overall economy, which triggered proliferation of livelihood industries with moderate technology but large job creation. This in turn fuelled higher income, and more service industries. But they do give fillip to GDP as they create present day technology base and widen job employment. But continuation of business leadership in future, high trade advantage and accelerated growth can come only when we create technology of future in todays environment. That is where innovations and innovation friendly environment play a decisive role. My presumption is: China’s second inflection is mainly due to harnessing of their large innovation potential.
One of the broad-indicator of innovation environment of any country is the number of patents granted per year. In last decade, India’s share has jumped by a factor of five. Latest number is hovering around 10800, a miniscule contribution by billion plus population. For China, the numbers jumped in almost same proportion. Only difference is Chinese numbers are around 40 times that of India, latest number hovering just a notch below 400,000, to be precise at 399,878. That is stratospheric difference. Data show, if we have to achieve the second inflection to push up the GDP trajectory, we need to rethink what urgent steps, we have to climb, in vastly pulling up our innovation environment and support system.
I believe there are a few main ingredients of innovation culture: namely, imagination, knowledge, interpersonal communication and ethical value system. We have invested considerably in knowledge system. We have rapidly expanded AIIMS, IIT, IIM, NIT, Science institutions, Engineering and Medical colleges. But we made the entry system so difficult that private tution-shops are probably having more turnover than the funding in IITs!
We created a competitive rote culture, instead of learning culture, leaving imagination to backbenchers of college classrooms.
Actually, all children are born imaginative. But society, parents, education system and knowledge accumulation gradually kill imagination. It is high time we should focus on primary and secondary schooling, quality of teachers and their remuneration. We are not able to attract bright minds for teaching, precisely because of very lopsided investment. Still our country is progressing forward and this is because of dedication of individual teachers, in spite of hardships they face. We should remember, if you give peanuts, you get monkeys. We need to refashion our education system so that learning and imagination, both are fostered.
We also need to dispense with assessing the college teachers in terms of only publications. Patents, copy rights, design rights should be given much stronger emphasis for career growth. In fact, we give away many of our hard-earned knowledge and learnings, just for free, by insisting on publication without legally securing the knowledge for future monetization.
From my long experience and being holder of reasonable number of quality patents and copyrights, I can vouch that our scientists and engineers, many times, are not able to streamline their analytical thought processes, because they lack soft skills like expressing and communicating in succinct and coherent fashion. Somehow, an idea has invaded our minds that if you want to pursue a career in science, it is ok to not to pursue language and arts courses. This phenomenon is adding to killing of the spirit of innovation.
I had an encounter with Intellectual Property Right (IPR) lawyers. I am sorry to say, interaction with them, many times kills patent initiative. They have the uncanny ability to convert a scientific phenomenon to a legalistic draft, killing the patent at the outset. I remember, in Germany I could file a patent in 15 days flat, that is the general time limit awarded there, for converting a demonstrated idea or product to patent. But in India, I find that even filing takes a year or more. By then, your patent gets leaked, as it travels through many hands and somebody else in some other country, files a patent. Patent offices also take their own sweet time.
My experience says, many institutional heads, including the top men, do not believe in patenting or pursuing an innovation to the logical ends. More often they are guided by ignorance and lack of conviction. Also, many of them have not written a single patent to their credit. Many times, our systems believe that contributing scientists and innovators are best managed by technical and scientific managers, who turn out to be more often than not expert system manipulators. The price is being paid by the country. But I must say there are some exceptions. You will find those leaders from the innovation environment and products from their institutions.
I am not telling that patents are be all of innovation. Patents ensure that the idea or product has originality and its practicability is demonstrated. Bringing an idea to a logical end and demonstrating it as a product or software is a great trainer in discipline required for innovation. All of us know, publications need not ensure originality. Even replication of an existing idea also finds avenues for publication. But patents generally ensure originality in thinking and the implementation process. Everything is fair in love, war and international commerce. The pinpricks in different forms will be expected from our international competitors of all hues. These pinpricks may include unnecessary military engagements, cyber-attacks, currency manipulation, trade embargo, unfair tariff, one sided global institution regimes, encouragement of social and political discontent. We need to deal with them as and when they appear. We can plan for avoiding or minimising them in future. But sustaining rebuttal of these adventures is possible when we jack up our GDP and well-being of our population. Only way out is a concerted effort and conviction of seizing future economy, by building technologies and processes for future only through the sustainable route of innovation.
Tapan Misra is a distinguished scientist, who contributed immensely to India’s space programme. He has headed the Space Application Centre and was also Advisor Department of Space.
It is ironic that “Howdy Modi” happens when foreign capital from countries like India and other emerging economies are going back to the US. This makes Donald Trump led US economy and its dollar strong but countries like India who actually need the money to take it to the next level are becoming weak.
For all the pride that Indians in US and in India took in the impressive US-India bonhomie at the Howdy Modi event at Houston, what really was missing at this extravaganza was the much expected invite that Prime Minister Naredra Modi should have extended to the Houston-based oil billionaires to invest in India’s potential oil reserves. Neither did the PM urge the rich Indian Americans to invest in Indian markets or in India’s growth story.
It was expected that Modi in the beginning of his second innings would, from this platform, make a beginning of the Global Infrastructure Summit that he had announced just after the victory of his second term. It is an entirely a different matter that he chose the Climate Action Summit in New York City as the platform to announce that India was launching a Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.
In the past 100 plus days, Team Modi has been in a scramble to lift the fast sinking economy. The worst part is that they have not come to terms with the real and progressive damage being caused to the Indian economy on a continuous basis, let alone admitting or finding solutions for it.
If PM Modi wants India to become a $5 trillion economy then what are the actions on the ground? If the PM is serious about what he says, then there has to be a focus on getting private and public investments in every spehere – from industry (steel, coal, mining, power, railways, ports, highways etc), to the social sector, especially investments in rural India, for Government schools, hospitals, and nutrition for the millennials. Where is the plan and vision for these focused areas after four months of Modi’s second successive term in office.
Countries like China, Japan, Germany, South Korea, and Taiwan have invested heavily in industrialisation and human capital and with the profits and taxes, these countries have deployed the financial resources for creating infrastructure to become strong economies of today. Every citizen in these countries is educated up to a level, thereby giving a huge pool of human capital for the country to progress. For instance, China employs it’s rural ageing immobile citizens to manufacture goods like toothbrushes, shoes, and toys that are always in demand. We too have 60% India idle in hinterland. Why can’t we invest in training them to manufacture low cost items? It needs to be noted that China is moving out its low cost manufacturing to East Asian countries. Taking a cue from China, why can’t India also take a lead and move forward to solve its unemployment and economic problems? For this India needs a plan and a vision of what it wants to do with its demographic advantage. The Chinese, Germans, Japanese,Koreans, Taiwanese – all had a plan to take the economy to the next level. China had Deng’s vision, South Korea’s Miracle on the Han river, Germany’s Miracle on the Rhine, Japan Economic Miracle are all plans that took these countries from poverty and post-war destruction to become economic powerhouses of the world.
Today the time is ripe for India under Modi to create a plan, given that he has a massive mandate to his advantage. But does he have the vision and the capability beyond holding huge PR events is the point. Unfortunately India’s leadership today is not even ready to recognise that there is a slowdown let alone planning to take India to the next level. The only announcement persons at the level of the Union Finance Minister and Commerce Minister make when it comes to defending the government in public is that ‘we are the fastest growing economy’. Little do they realise that the top economies in the world are real big. According to IMF World Economic Outlook (April-2019), GDP (nominal) of India in 2019 at current prices is projected at $2,972 billion. India contributes 3.36% of total world’s GDP in exchange rate basis. But that’s way behind compared to the US (24.3%), China (15.04 %) Japan (6.1%) and Germany (4.6%).
The top economies, leading in terms of GDP, have a huge base and even if they grow at a rate of 2%, they would continue to be far ahead of India. It may be noted that the economy of US is $20 trillion, China $14 trillion, Japan $5.1 trillion, Germany $4 trillion, UK $3 trillion, but that of India is $2.5 trillion. It is also to be noted that the above economies now aspire to becoming the leaders in advanced technology and engineering like space sciences, genomics, advanced warfare weaponry, cyber warfare, super computing, chip manufacturing, oceanic sciences, advanced materials manufacturing, and unmanned vehicles. These countries are working in limited markets and compete only with each other for superiority in these products that are unique and give them near monopoly. We are tottering in an old fashioned brick and mortar economy.
Today if we fancy ourselves to be the Vishwa Guru then the Guru has to come up with a plan that the World will take a note of to invest in. Politically too this is the right time to lift the sagging spirit of India because to dislodge Nehruvian legacy needs more concrete ideas. Its a different matter that even Nehru had a plan. These Friday announcements of FM to revive growth and push up the sluggish stock markets are only like a band aid that is unlikely to have any long-term effect. Cutting taxes of individuals and corporates works wonders in countries where everyone pays taxes. In India of 135bn people roughly 30 lakh pay taxes. Even opening sectors like coal, mining are not likely to receive any investments because it is the ruling BJP that made sure all licenses of investors who were allocated mines in the past regime get cancelled. Today who will take the risk of investing when BJP is in power and there is a trust issue. Especially when there is no clear vision. In addition to this, there is no clear policy on environment till date. Public outcry for building Metro terminal near Mumbai, outcry against Nanar refinery in Ratnagiri, outcry against Vedanta’s Tuticorin project are recent examples of how unclear policies can hamper projects. So Modi and his team with such a huge mandate has the best possible chance to come up with a vision to take India to the $5 trillion economy. A vision to make India a miracle economy along the lines of other advanced economies is the need of the hour. If PM Modi thinks that Nehru’s work is what Next gen India should forget and take him seriously then he will have to do some serious planning. Otherwise “Howdy Modi” will soon become “What did Modi” (do)!!!
Postscript (updated 25 September 19:54 hrs IST): Delivering the keynote address at the Bloomberg Global Forum in New York City on Wednesday, the Prime Minister told the US CEOs to come and invest in India. If there is any gap, we will personally act as a bridge, the PM said adding investor trust has increased in India. We have recently reduced corporate tax and have also done away with archaic laws that impede ease of doing business in India, the PM said.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of Newsroom24x7.com
Threats to human existence have been predicted, debated and analysed through the ages by mystics and scientists alike and also the science fiction writers and futurists particularly when it comes to meteorites, gamma ray bursts from distant galaxies, super volcanoes, apocalypses and catastrophes of the unknown kind.
There have been warnings, speculation and much amusement as I recall my own childhood reading of H G Wells, when more than a century ago in “The Time Machine” he tried to develop the science of forecasting and I was equally fascinated by Issac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke who do peep into the far futures. Also any talk of our future destiny may be imperfect if we do not speak of mystics like Nostradamus and the ancient Mayans who regularly tried to speculate and even predict the end of the world as we know it.
The outcome of our future destiny has nonetheless remained incoherent despite the best efforts of these pioneers. We are more privileged today as humans have steadily advanced both technologically and sociologically to predict at least our existential future and have developed the will to evolve strategies, deal with impending issues and to an extent mitigate these future disasters. The fact though remains that humans do overestimate the probability of events we know and underestimate events we do not readily recall. Let us for a moment assume that humanity becomes extinct, it would imply a loss of not only lives but also the loss of values, the intelligence, the knowledge and above all the consciousness generated by Homo sapiens through past several millennia. There is evidently a strong moral logic for humans to prevent existential threats of our own making such as wars and global warming from occurring.
Also in retrospect I do wonder, have we deliberated enough on the existential risks that we face today, mostly of our own doing. Yes, indeed we do face risks of just not the big disasters from the realm of the unknown but more importantly disasters that are man-made and recur almost every day in our life and times and these are the ones that may end history as we know. As Robert Burns almost two centuries and a half back commented ‘man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn’ when Edmund Burke was compelled to observe that ‘the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for the good men to do nothing’. Today we are no different and may be reminded of these ominous words in a world that thrives on violence, terror and killing where we value Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King or for that matter Nelson Mandela only for lip service.
It is in this context that an informal but unique gathering of a most extraordinary league of individuals was held at the Centre for Global Nonkilling with Professor Glenn D Paige from the 11th to 14th June at Hawaii. Indeed I was a participant along with some very unique and outstanding individuals driven and inspired by the cause for a killing-free world from across the globe. I had the opportune moment to further understand and also to highlight some of these threats to the measurable goal of a non-killing world that may or will endanger human existence in the foreseeable future.
One of the prime risk to my mind was the present state of geo-politics that may lead to a war like situation. The driving force may perhaps be purely economic compulsions as substantial parts of globalised economy as yet strives for a magic wand for recovery that does not exist. Be it inflation, unemployment, commodity shortages or even GDP numbers, a recent decision on crude prices by the OPEC actually translates into a war like confrontation with the West. The West on its part clearly understands that if war funding has to come down than the entire middle-East has to be kept under pressure. As per recent estimates despite the end of the Cold War the probability of a nuclear holocaust is one in 1000 in a year and hence any prediction of mass killing that may be the unwitting outcome of any major escalation of geopolitik may not be at all far-fetched.
Next is a bio-engineered pandemic as pathogens are easier to design and as biotechnology gets better and cheaper and as bio-weapons get more accessible even to fringe groups. Lest we forget the Aum Shinrikyo cult that tried to hasten the apocalypse deploying a nerve gas attack. Do we have the hindsight of the leak of methyl isocyanate (MIC) at midnight at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal that killed thousands of citizens. In the Japanese biowar program since World War II up to 400,000 may have died, far more than those killed by the terrorists. And governments across the globe have killed yet more people in wars across the globe, and even more than in biowar and terror. Not that governments and military or even the industry for that matter, may both wittingly or unwittingly unleash bio-terrorism as a weapon of choice in the hands of a few misguided individuals.
It is said that humans are the crowning achievement of evolutionary history. As humans develop super intelligence and improve cognition through enhancing drugs and artificial intelligence software, traditional civilisational pace of change is increasingly threatened. The explosion in super intelligence may not follow the complex values and diffused morals that have been the cornerstone of the world that we had known until now. But that may be a distant dream and the outcome disastrous considering the explosive growth in human desires, future possibilities and aspirations as Gandhi said there is enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed. The risk of autonomous and semi-autonomous weapons and systems through advances in nano technology where smart poisons can annihilate a whole population, where gnat bots and self replicating nano machines in the hands of a maniac may result in mayhem and mass killing on a global scale.
It has been estimated that on average a mammalian species survives for a million years and if that be the extinction rate for humans as well than it is going to be much less if we take into account the probability of wars and a nuclear holocaust or any of the other existential possibilities such as hunger, pestilence, climate change or any of those discussed above. Just one possibility where humans have absolute and avoidable control is war and even there our record is not only dismal but a horror story of the worst kind. In last seventy years alone since the end of World War II in some 250 major wars alone 50 million people have been killed, not to speak of those millions who became homeless and the millions injured. Yet we have movies and digital games now that do motivate our youngsters to be the killing machines for a world where revenge and wars are the ultimate goal and not our youth as the harbingers for peace and prosperity in a non-violent and non-killing world.
In our futures exercise at Honolulu we did focus on the preferred assumption of a measurable goal of a non-killing world in the next 30 years in place of a possible or probable world. The unexceptional conclusion was that though a time frame until 2045 may not be a fantasy as such as it can be visualised when we look back at our own past and the pace of change. The non-killing spirit is all pervasive among humans and with the right resolve it may be brought to the fore. Indeed violence and killing is not only self-defeating but also makes the attainment of other goals almost impossible such as sustainable development and universal education, hunger and poverty, conflict resolution and disarmament, human rights and religious tolerance, gender equity and unemployment, and the list goes on.
From times immemorial the all important human trait of cognition and symbolic reasoning led to our cultural explosion and helped our species not only to survive but also to thrive. As humans we not only learnt from our past mistakes but also adapted to variation itself over the the past few millenia, but has our morality really kept pace with our own rapid intellectual transformation. If our own past is any indicator, indeed we have not. The danger is therefore immediate and urgent as existential risks have to be eliminated here and now. Not surprisingly it was felt that a mass movement for a Global Nonkilling World was the only way forward that could bring human consciousness to the next level.