Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Searching for a Model?

Those of an independent bent like to parade the example of Mahathir and malaysia. I used to, and I still admit an admiration for their marvellous progress (except on the environmental front).
Recently, I have has to conclude however that they may be out of reach for at least a decade or two. In other words, we can make Bangladesh a success but even if we started today to bridge the gap from $1900 PPP per capita income to $9,000 of Malaysia would take years.
Instead, why have we stopped looking to the West?
Only 30 minutes flight away is a territory which some used to laugh at, but which is going to be THE next investment destination. West Bengal.
While you are trying to contain your laughter, let me ask you to dump the "City-of-Joy-and-Communist-Union-strikes-mother-Teresa-blackouts" picture, that is still the brand image of Kolkata and the State of W. Bengal.
True, they have severe problems, including malnutrition. At least they admit it. But there is a sense of purpose that seems to be lacking here.
They are trying to copy the Chinese model and building their economy, taking into account the present global environment. Don't be surprised when they compete head-to-head with Bangalore in IT and regain their industrial pre-eminence of the sixties.
Within ten years, they will be streets ahead of us. In industries, infrastructure, education, IT, health and security.
We need to learn about their mistakes and successes, and understand the similarities with us in terms of agriculture, weather, culture, location etc and develop our independent plan. Their experience is a lot more relevant than South-east Asia.
We still have a lot of advantages over them - I will leave that for another day.
But first we should do a bit of research, shouldn't we?
The real problem is that the middle classes in dhanmondi cannot bear one thing and that is a resurgent West Bengal...... Well, they had better accept the fact. It is happening and we need to pull our socks up. And quick.

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