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As The Election Nears, India’s Opposition Promises Several Economic Steps

Modi said at the Delhi convention that the opposition was working on a "desperate alliance," while the BJP would give a "strong government."

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Rahul Gandhi, Election
Rahul Gandhi, president of India's main opposition Congress Party, speaks at a rally ahead of October's 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Jan. 11, 2019. VOA

India’s main opposition Congress Party will simplify the goods and services tax (GST) and make “rational economic decisions” to attract foreign investment if voted back to power in a general election due by May, leader Rahul Gandhi said Saturday.

Launched in 2017, the GST was initially hailed as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s biggest economic reform as it replaced more than a dozen federal and state levies and unified Asia’s third-largest economy.

But its chaotic implementation and complexities — months after a shock ban by Modi on high-value bank currency aimed at unearthing untaxed wealth — badly hurt small businesses and led to millions of job losses in the cash-driven economy, presenting the biggest challenge to Modi’s re-election chances.

India,India, elections, BJP
India’s Congress party President Rahul Gandhi displays documents in New Delhi, India. VOA

 

Gandhi, scion of India’s Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, said during a visit to Dubai that foreign investment was at a multiyear low in India because of the “ill-advised and badly thought out economic moves” such as the currency ban and a “poorly designed GST.”

Quick growth promised

“We will take some rational economic decisions,” he told a press conference, which was broadcast live on Twitter. “We will restructure the GST and we will embrace investments from the Middle East and other parts of the world. We are the party of [India’s economic] liberalization; we are the party that gave the fastest economic growth in the first decade of the century, and will do that again.”

He said his main priority would be to create jobs, simplify the GST, rebuild confidence in institutions such as the Reserve Bank of India — whose governor resigned recently after a fight over autonomy with the government, and the Supreme Court.

Modi, election
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, is garlanded by BJP leaders on the first day of the two-day Bharatiya Janata Party national convention in New Delhi, Jan. 11, 2019. VOA

 

Four Supreme Court judges held a rare press conference early last year, saying that “unless this institution is preserved and it maintains its equanimity, democracy will not survive in this country.”

Modi told a BJP convention in New Delhi on Saturday that for Congress “every institution was wrong and only they were right.”

The Congress press conference was organized by the Indian Overseas Congress, which is present in about 35 countries, as Gandhi tries to reach out to rich Indians living abroad for funds and social media support for the party that has dominated the country’s politics for decades before being nearly decimated in the last general election in 2014 by Modi.

But back home, Gandhi received a jolt when bitter rivals, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP), announced an election tie-up without Congress in Uttar Pradesh state, which sends the highest number of lawmakers to the lower house of parliament.

Narendra Modi, India, election
Elaborate preparations for PM’s election rally. VOA

“The BSP and SP have made a political decision,” Gandhi said. “It’s on us on how to strengthen the Congress Party in Uttar Pradesh and we will fight with our full capacity. Whether we do or their alliance does, the BJP is not winning there.”

Also Read:China, India Keen on Joint Ventures For e-vehicles

Modi said at the Delhi convention that the opposition was working on a “desperate alliance,” while the BJP would give a “strong government.”

The Hindu nationalist BJP lost power in three key states recently, forcing the government to announce a flurry of measures to woo small businesses and the less well-off since then. (VOA)

Next Story

India Needs to Improve its Educational Outcomes to Catch up with China

To catch up with China, India needs to lay emphasis on improving its educational outcomes

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The Article 30 of the Constitution gives religious and linguistic minorities “the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.”
India needs to improve its educational outcomes to catch up with China. Pixabay

By Amit Kapoor

Both China and India started building their national education systems under comparable conditions in the late 1940s. Different policies and historical circumstances have, however, led them to different educational outcomes, with China outperforming India not just in terms of its percentage of literate population and enrollment rates at all levels of education, but also in terms of number of world-class institutions in higher education, and greater research output.

The roots of China’s successful education system date back to the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), which unintentionally expanded access to the primary education through democratising the schooling system, which was previously elitist in character, thus addressing the problem of mass illiteracy.

In contrast, India continued to focus on its higher education system since independence and only realised the importance of basic education in 1986, keeping it behind China and many other countries in Asia in educational development. In terms of enrollment, China reached a 100 percent gross enrollment rate (GER) in its primary education in 1985, whereas, India attained that level only in 2000.

In terms of secondary school enrollment, India and China both started at the similar rates in 1985, with about 40 percent of their population enrolled in secondary schools. However, due to a wider base of primary school students, the rate of increase in China has been much faster than in India, with 99 percent secondary enrollment rate in China and 79 percent in India in 2017.

India is closing in on the Chinese rate in terms of access to education, but on the literacy level front, there is a huge gap in the percentage of literate populations in the two countries. In the age group of 15-24 years, India scores 104th rank on literacy and numeracy indicator, compared to China’s 40th rank.

The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which assesses after every three years the domain knowledge of 15-year-old students in reading, mathematics, science and finance, revealed that students in China performed above the OECD average in 2015. Moreover, one in four students in China are top performers in mathematics, having an ability to formulate complex situations mathematically. Further, China outperforms all the other participating countries in financial literacy, by having a high ability to analyse complex finance products. For India, the comparable data is not available as it was not a participating country in PISA 2015.

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Representational image.

However, in India, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2017 provides data for rural youth, aged 14-18, with respect to their abilities to lead productive lives as adults. According to this survey, only about half of the 14-year-old children in the sample could read English sentences, and more than half of the students surveyed could not do basic arithmetic operations, like division. For basic financial calculations, such as managing a budget or making a purchase decision, less than two-thirds could do the correct calculations.

With regard to the higher education system, both India and China dominate the number of tertiary degree holders because of their large population size, but when it comes to the percentage of the population holding tertiary degrees, only about 10 per cent and 8 per cent of the population possess university degrees in China and India, respectively. By contrast, in Japan, almost 50 per cent of the population holds a tertiary degree, and in the United States, 31 per cent of the population hold a tertiary degree.

In terms of the international recognition of universities, the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Ranking for 2019 places seven of the China’s universities in the top 200, compared to none for India. The global university rankings, which are based on various performance metrices, pertaining to teaching, research, citations, international outlook and industrial income, shows progress for several of China’s low-ranked universities, largely driven by improvements in its citations.

In fact, the Tsinghua University has overtaken the National University of Singapore (NUS) to become the best university in Asia due to improvements in its citations, institutional income and increased share of international staff, students and co-authored publications.

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While India has progressed in terms of massification of education, there is still a lot which needs to be done when it comes to catching up with the China’s educational outcomes. China’s early start in strengthening its primary and secondary education systems has given it an edge over India in terms of higher education. Moreover, Chinese government strategies are designed in line with the criterion used in major world university rankings, especially emphasis is on the two factors which weigh heavily in the rankings — publications and international students.

The relentless publications drive, which is very evident in China, is weak in India and has led to a growing gap in the number of publications contributed by the two countries. Further, China enrolled about 292,611 foreign students in 2011 from 194 countries, while India currently only has 46,144 foreign students enrolled in its higher education institutions, coming from 166 countries. The large number of international enrollments in China is a reflection of its state policies granting high scholarships to foreign students.

To catch up with China, India needs to lay emphasis on improving its educational outcomes. Massification drive for education has helped India raise its student enrollments, but a lot needs to be done when it comes to global recognition for its universities. Further, it needs to focus on building the foundation skills which are acquired by students at the school age, poor fundamental skills flow through the student life, affecting adversely the quality of education system. (IANS)