Monday, March 15, 2010

Red Tape Indian-Style

Certain times in history belong to specific places. Chicago in the 1890s, New York in the '50's, Paris in the '20s; where all the varied currents in the world seem to come together in one spot and define a moment. Right now the moment belongs to the BRICs; Brazil, Russia, India, and China.

To visit India now is heady stuff. In Mumbai they are repaving the airport's runway with a gang of women using hand tools and baskets full of gravel on their heads. But the airport is busy with new low-fare airlines, and increased middle class air travel is pushing that expansion. An Indian wine industry is gaining real traction.

Our generation is the last to know a pre-reform India--a country that derided its own stagnant economy as the "Hindu rate of growth." There was nothing inherently Indian about the poverty, though. It was the country's forty-year experiment in socialism that held it back. Rampant protectionism, planned economies, and a self-propagating bureaucracy strangled an economy that, at independence in 1947, was one of the developing world's most vibrant and industrialized. Now the restraints are falling away.