Through Indian Eyes, U.S. Due to Remain No. 1

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), January 15, 2012 | Go to article overview
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Through Indian Eyes, U.S. Due to Remain No. 1

Byline: Sriram Kh For The Register-Guard

When students or friends ask me about the prospects for the United States, I tell them that my long-term bets are always on my adopted country.

The Soviet Union came and went. The sun briefly rose in Japan, and then appears to have sunk really fast. China seems to be far from ready to deal with the coming demographic implosion, thanks to which its labor force will start shrinking while the ranks of the old and retired will rapidly grow. The Euro zone is now chaotic.

And my native country of India?

I quote the title of Amartya Sen's book, "The Argumentative Indian," and tell students that the cultural and democratic virtue of all-talk, all the time, on any topic - domestic and international - will continue to constrain its economic progress. I should note here that such a sarcastic take on the title is not what Sen's book is about.

Thus my belief that in the global economic landscape, the United States will continue to lead in one of two ways: Either it genuinely is creative and gets ahead, or it simply waits for others to fail and then be the last one standing.

Less than a month into my current trip to India, I see no evidence to the contrary about India and the "argumentative Indians." In fact, India's success might have been oversold, too.

There is, indeed, a huge increase in consumption - from chocolates and chips to computers and cars. But long-term investments that could propel productivity enhancements seem to be in severe shortage, from the physical manifestations in roads and the power supply, to education and health.

Take electricity, for instance. This time of the year is about the coolest in the subcontinent, so demand for electricity is significantly lower than in the hot summer months. Yet even now, there is routine load shedding because of an acute shortage of electricity.

Here in the state of Tamil Nadu, many areas experience anywhere from one to four hours of power interruption every single day.

Power cuts are the norm in many other states as well, leading one commentator to write in a leading national newspaper that "but for some urgent steps from the government, the country may well return to the dark ages, literally.

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