I have never looked forward to going to India on business. Yet, every trip has been interesting, to say the least. The country is one of great contrast. On one hand you have the incessant car honkings, arid air and a heavily bureaucratic government; while on the other, you have one of the world’s fastest growing economy, a population that genuinely hungers for knowledge and a highly creative society.
If I don’t know better, I might believe Bill Clinton when he says India will outgrow China economically in 20 years. Heck, I might even believe Bollywood’s assertion that it is far superior to Hollywood!
Fact is, India has all the potentials to be a global powerhouse: a gargantuan population, diversified economy and a well-educated workforce. Yet, to be a true economic leader, India will need to rein in its infamous corruption and unwieldy bureaucracy, while shifting its focus into building basic infrastructure and narrowing the huge wealth gap.
More importantly, the Indian government would do well to focus on good governance and leave businesses alone. Like our own government, unnecessary interference in business has resulted in rampant corruption, massive monopolies that stifle growth, and a culture of patronage and rent-seeking.
In every major industry, the government either has a controlling stake in businesses or have in place rules and regulations that are so opaque that it’s impossible to prosper without paying off officials.
NOT SO DIFFERENT
When you consider these peculiarities, and compare them against our own – you will notice that they are not so peculiar after all. In many ways, our government is not far different than that of India.
The top-down-big-brother-knows-best style of governance is highly prevalent at every level of our government. Nothing gets done without the explicit blessings of politicians and government officials. How we have sustained our economic growth confounds me, as we are doing everything possible to stifle economic growth and discourage competition.
The antidote to this self-sabotage must be the ingenuity and resilience of our entrepreneurs. For without our ability to adapt and adopt against the backdrop of such challenges, we couldn’t possibly have survived and prospered.
The role of the government in the economy must be limited to creating the right framework for businesses to grow. Business should be left to businesses. Only then can there be some order amidst the chaos.