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India's "below average" progress in sustainability of income equality, civil society, governance, environment

By Rajiv Shah
A high-profile report prepared by the Boston Consulting Group, US, has suggested that India may have progressed well in the economic indicator (which consists of income, economic stability and employment), and investment (instructure, health and education), but its progress in sustainability (income equality, civil society, governance and environment) remains below world average.
Rating 162 countries across the world, though without ranking them, the report finds that in the overall economic progress, India's score is 45.6 (on a scale of 100), higher than the world average of 43.2; in progress in investment, the score is 54.6, with the world average being 40.1; but in progress in sustainability, its score is 50.4, below the world average of 54.4 per cent.
The report, which seeks to analyze data up to 2014-end, finds that, among BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), in all three indicators of progress -- economics, investment and sustainability -- China performs better than India, at 60.1, 69.1 and 52.3 respectively.
Brazil performs better in economic progress (52.7) and sustainability (54.7), but in investment it doesn't do so well (46.4). Russia does worse than India in economic and investment progress (43.6 and 39.9 respectively), but better in sustainability (53.1).
Among India's neighbours Sri Lanka does better than India in economic progress and investment, but it fails to do as well in sustainability (51.2, 53.6 and 49.6 respecively). Pakistan is way behind India in economic progress and investment, yet it is a little ahead in sustainability (37.1 34.4 and 51.3 respectively).
Nepal may be behind India in economic progress (41.8 per cent), it is way ahead of India two other indicators, investment and sustainability (61.0 and 55.4). And Bangladesh is ahead of India in economic progress (47.7), but it is behind India in investment and sustainability (51.9 and 43.8 respectively).
While conceding that "India’s overall progress is slightly below what would be expected given its growth rate from 2006 to 2014", the report underlines, "But considering the country’s robust growth, its progress has been impressive. India is in the top quintile in recent progress owing to strength in the investments element, which includes health, education, and infrastructure."
Seeking a Sustainable Economic Development Assessment (SEDA) on the basis of the three indicators, even as analyzing 44 sub-indicators, the report offers two set of data -- current level scores and recent-progress scores. While developing countries like India would be naturally be far behind developed countries in current level scores, the recent progress scores, indicate the authors of the report, provides the real overall ability of a country to move ahead in SEDA.
Analyzing SEDA against the backdrop of how governments, in alliance with private sector, seek to convert wealth, as measured by income levels and growth rate, into well-being the report believes, it si financial inclusion which is providing the real fillip to India's overall progress.
Pointing out that the top ten countries in “current well-being” remain in Western Europe, as in the past, the report says, India and China have shown shown better performance in “recent progress”. It says, in India, "the government has been a major catalyst", between 2006 and 2014, in providing "all citizens a national ID, along with new regulations that allow companies other than financial institutions to operate as 'payment banks'”.
"A key element of the government’s financial inclusion push is the adoption of a national ID system. The government launched a programme, dubbed Aadhaar, in 2010 to give every person in India a biometric ID, which includes a 12-digit number along with iris scans and fingerprints", the report says.
Praising the PradhānMantrī Jana Dhan Yōjanā (PMJDY), it adds, "The national ID push was followed in 2014 by new regulations that allow companies with distribution expertise to offer deposit and payment services as 'payment banks'. The goal of these relaxed rules is to expand options for low-income people, migrant workers, and small businesses".

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