India’s economic world integration is good, says prof. Mohanty

India’s economic world integration is good, says prof. Mohanty
By Caroline Fernandez
Published: Wednesday, January 21, 2004 (The Link, Concordia University Newspaper)

Like many developing countries around the world, India is weary of having too close a relationship with the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Professor Mritiunjoy Mohanty of the Indian Institute of Management, in Calcutta, visited Concordia’s Hall Building to discuss the WTO and India’s integration into the world economy.

“This really is work in progress,” Mohanty declared. He spoke with his eyes lit up, almost excited about India’s achievements. India has always been hesitant to go global in its economic prospects, he said as he referred to India’s rising economy as one moving at the pace of a tortoise, but moving nonetheless. “India is a lot more integrated than it was in 1981,” he stated.

Mohanty observed that India’s role in the spotlight on Asia is growing, as it now stands as the third-largest economy in Asia following Japan and China. A looming free trade agreement between Thailand and India is just another step in India’s embracing of the corporate world. “Corporate India is beginning to grow,” Mohanty claimed. A concentration on agriculture is decelerating, as labour and GDP spread out through other sections such as services, engineering and manufacturing.

He stated such a concentration on a primary commodity would’ve eventually had a negative effect on India, going against it rather than helping it. He shared slides of statistics showing most of the flaws in the economy lie in the workforce. The majority of the labour force is still focused on agriculture, although numbers are decreasing. “Inability to sway people from agriculture is really where India’s development problems lie,” he declares, adding “You’ve got a large number of people sitting in agriculture, and you have to move them out…Moving them out is a lot more difficult than it seems.”

He was quick to remind listeners, though, that a large portion of people missing in the labour force are those between the ages of 15-24.
Many in this group are now staying in school and obtaining an education. Still, the gap between rich and poor is huge, Mohanty maintains.
The bulk of India’s poor are stuck in regions where the poor are staying that way and those who are improving are migrating to other areas of India that are better off.

Mohanty does not view globalization as a saviour to India, though. He only sees it as a trend that increases competition, not only in terms of
economics, but national mindset. The elite of India look at the West to define their consumption habits, he argues, raising aspiration levels in an economy that is not capable of living up to such expectations.

“As you globalize, you restrict the space within which domestic small industry can grow,” he said. Multinational corporations have found it hard to penetrate Indian industry, for citizens can’t afford Levi’s and Baskin Robbins yet. It is the domestic firms that one hopes will expand the market. One of the key steps to ensuring such expansion will take place is by investing in education.

Though Mohanty is a supporter of India’s corporate growth, many expressed opposing views at the World Social Forum held in India last week. Activists conveyed the opinion that unfair global trade is taking place and only increases poverty and unemployment for the developing world. Most opposition was shown towards western intervention, particularly George W. Bush.