Yusuf Unjhawala on $50 Trillion Dollar Indian Economy | Abhijit Chavda Podcast 37 | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "Yusuf Unjhawala on $50 Trillion Dollar Indian Economy | Abhijit Chavda Podcast 37".
Note: This transcription is split and grouped by topics and subtopics. You can navigate through the Table of Contents on the left. It's interactive. All paragraphs are timed to the original video. Click on the time (e.g., 01:53) to jump to the specific portion of the video.
One of the benchmarks for India as a developed country would be if we are able to attract global students in India to come and learn. The center's sole or primary responsibility is the defence of the country, right? We are not even spending enough on our defence. India has far more to offer the world. Way more. Far more offer to the world. But people think our population is exploding. The following is a podcast with Yusuf Unjawala. Yusuf Unjawala is an editor at the Defence Forum India and he's a commentator on defence and strategic affairs. Please subscribe and enjoy the podcast. Yusuf Unjawala, welcome back to the Abhijit Jawada podcast. Thanks Abhijit. Thanks so much. So we spoke in the last. This is the second conversation that we're having in the first conversation. We spoke about defence and geopolitics mainly. In this conversation, we're going to discuss the economy.
Discussion On India'S Potential Economic Growth
How Can India Reach $50 Trillion GDP by 2050? (00:50)
How do we, India, how do we reach the 30 trillion dollar mark by 2050? So could you give some broad suggestions? I mean some broad things that we can do and we will discuss each of these in detail. First thing, education. Education. Our people should be educated, obviously starting with the primary, then going up and then technical education or specialization in various fields, which will help set up, say, research institutes in India. So if you're on a technical level, manufacturing setups, people undertaking development initiatives in various fields, which include, say, defence or even the civilian sector, you're looking at things like how chips were, for instance, invented and made. The whole gamut of processes starts with education. Yes. We need to acquire those skill sets that help us stand in the world and for ourselves over here and kind of become a centre of learning in the long process. I think one of the benchmarks for India as a developed country would be if we are able to attract global students in India to come and learn, just like how we go today, all over the world to acquire knowledge, acquire education. So that would perhaps be one of the benchmarks for us that we have arrived. That's one. Secondly, and I've said this in a previous episode as well, how do we encourage our people to become entrepreneurs, get into business, get into manufacturing? It's a no-brainer. I think it's been said even by our politicians, our political leadership, we need to get to, say, about 25% of our GDP coming from the manufacturing sector. We are down to about, say, 13 or 14%. It's not good enough. We need that to generate employment over here. That is one. Secondly, also to export. And that possibility exists now because of the geopolitical sweet spot that we are in, where countries are looking at China plus one or French shoring, de-risking. I mean, you can do whatever colourful terms do you want to say, but the fact is the world is divided now. And India is in a good spot to leverage its friendship with the West for its own economic development. So we have to use that. It will require policies at home. And for the manufacturing sector, there are various things that we have to do, make it easier for people to get into manufacturing. We spoke about in the previous episode about land being one factor. What else can we do? How do we tie up with, say, countries like Taiwan to set up manufacturing tech parks, manufacturing parks all over India? Pick critical areas which has a huge requirement in India as well, and then we can fulfil the global requirement as well. So in that, there are various aspects. One is land I talked about. Secondly is regulation. How do we make that better? I'm also of the opinion that every state should have an officer in Indian embassies across the world. Okay. Every state. Because that person would know what the strengths and weaknesses of a state are and where it can attract investments in what space. So states can have this over there. Say, for instance, Bangalore or Karnataka can attract all kinds of investment in the IT sector and things like that. It's already happening. People know what Bangalore is. But similarly, other states will be able to project their state better and gain not only investments, but also look for export markets for their produce. Right. Right. So states can do that. I mean, it's not going to be easy for, say, one ambassador and a few diplomats. So India is anyway short-staffed as far as the foreign service goes. So how can states then promote themselves both for capital as well as for exports? That is one thing. Labor laws, how to make it easier for everybody, especially the entrepreneur. Right. So we have to do that. So that's for the manufacturing side. A key for all this, even before this, is going to be our domestic situation. Internal peace, harmony, stability is the prerequisite for businesses to thrive. Free minds will help in innovation. Yes. So we need to have all that. I think we should focus on that. Because if we want to reach, say, $30 trillion by 2050, you will need 30 years of fast-paced growth. Yes. It cannot happen with any kind of internal strife or conflict. Yes. It cannot happen by excluding people out from the goals or the benefits of development. Absolutely. Everybody has to grow. Yes. So we have to make sure that that atmosphere exists in the country. We cannot afford to have stripes. There will be people, external factors, which will try to exploit all the gaps that exist in the society and see if they can create wider fissures over there and stop India's rise. Yes. And we have to make sure that that disaster happens. So our politics, our policy should be such that if there are any fissures, any problem, it can be negotiated out or it can be solved in a cordial manner, which does not affect India's long-term prospects. As a-- it does not affect our unity, our integrity. All these are questions. It should not affect our unity, integrity, and make sure we are able to grow as one. So this will be required. So industry, obviously, then, services is our strength. So we need to focus on that as well and reach out to greater heights. So far, we have been service providers. Maybe it's time for us to innovate, get out where our next big thing comes from, where our people are able to develop an operating system. Say for now, just for yourselves, everybody uses Microsoft Windows. Just as an example, right? But we have been delivering all kinds of technology products, but we have never invented or innovated kind of a product which is of global use. So maybe that will help us and get us global presence, global reach. That will lead to a lot of things, a lot of innovation. Innovation is going to be key. How do we encourage that? Obviously, education is one, but then investments. I think we have to go down, right down to the village levels. Digital technology can be leveraged to plug some of the capability gaps as well as the delivery gaps that exist in, say, educating our kids in the village. So how do we do that? Just like how we have used digital technology to deliver welfare measures. How do we use digital technology? Is it possible now with broadband, with all kinds of tools that we have now? Village infrastructure is not conducive. We don't have that many good teachers in the numbers that we need. So how do we leverage technology to deliver quality education right down to the village level? Because those kids are our future. We have to think on those lines because education, like I said, I can't stress enough on education. It's key.
The New Education Policy (08:42)
What do you think of the new education policy, the NEP? I get the feeling it's not really doing enough to teach children how to be leaders. We still have the same educational pattern that we had in the 19th century, essentially. We do give degrees in computer science and whatnot and MBAs and all. But overall, it's all about road memorization. It's about passing exams. We don't really learn the skills that we need to learn to have a real world impact. So how do we address that? I don't think the NEP really addresses it. I have not studied the NEP in detail. So let me say that. But what I have read from the papers and other information is that it is focusing on, say, vocational development and skill development. So how that goes in the senior years, it is required. But in general, yes, we have to make sure that our kids are future ready. How do we come around with a curriculum which helps that? We have to see. But I really don't know about a new education policy in that detail. But yes, vocational training is one. What about technical institutes? India is there in Tamil Nadu. It's a very strong technical, you know, in terms of manufacturing as a powerhouse. Tamil Nadu, I think after Maharashtra is the second largest. So probably they compete at which is the top manufacturing state. And they have a lot of these technical training institutes. And that is where a lot of that skills are imparted, which will happen in manufacturing sectors. And similarly, technical institutes for manufacturing sector, for all other sectors. Now, you know, there was a time where, you know, and someone was educated. It was easier either a doctor or an engineer. Yes. Right. And people thought everybody else was right, kind of a thing. But now every school, every subject has vast scope, how we can leverage all that. I think that will open up a lot of opportunity. I mean, today we're doing podcasts, right? Yes. Today podcasts have become a money spinner for so many people. They're giving a lot of money. So these are the economic opportunities which are available, you know, for everybody. So if you're educated, you can pick up all these various opportunities and make a lot of money, you know, out of nothing. Right. So, yes. So imparting all those skills is something that the government should focus.
Do We Need Expensive Degrees? (11:02)
And when we talk about leveraging technology to disseminate education, today it's possible, if you are connected to the internet, to learn anything, to learn computer science, learn engineering, learn whatever, medicine, anatomy, whatever. Do we still need these expensive degrees? You know, getting an education is so increasingly expensive, lakhs of rupees per year, just for per year to get, what BA, BSc, whatever it is, BTech. Do we need these degrees anymore? And should employers keep on insisting on people having degrees or just see the resume, they'll see what they can do? I think that is changing right in some, I think at least in the West where, you know. In the West it's changing, yes. Because people are able to do that. Yes. But I think formal education obviously is required. Then technical skills, maybe you have a degree or not have a degree, but at least you have to have that technical capability to do something, right? Even if you don't have a degree. It's like, you know, college dropouts and things, but they are so far, they feel that college is not worth it and they are far more superior in terms of their knowledge and they don't need a formal degree. So yes, but I think as a certificate, maybe it still holds a value because you need it. You know, it's also there on your resume, right? You are an MBA or whatever, postgraduate or MSc or an MTech or whatever. So it is required. So I think when it comes to quality matters, because what is happening is, as they say, India produce a lot of engineers. Yes. Right. There are a number of engineering colleges. We produce a lot of engineers. We produce a lot of doctors. What is the quality of that? Yes. So that is what should be of our concern and how we can improve that quality. And you can acquire skills like coding and all that online, but you can't acquire skills like machining and how to use technical equipment and all that. So that is your technical training. So that's where you need actual technical training. Yes, that's right. So that's something India will have to focus on. But what about the incredibly high cost of education? What can we do about that? Like I said, digital technology is one. Let us stay just with the basic primary education. Okay. All right. Assume there is a rural area where it has a number of villages and they have schools. But they lack quality teachers or they don't have enough teachers. You can use broadband and say set up screens with proper system, whatever. And you can have a good teacher. Go online and teach 20 villages at one go and say each village has 150, whatever number of students. And all these villages can be catered to by one teacher who is very good. And obviously it will be a two way session where these kids can ask questions and there will be a guide who will make sure that there's discipline and whatever people are attending school and all the infrastructure is maintained. So all that can be done. So one person teaching all of them and that takes away addresses rather. The problem of lack of quality teachers also giving that last mile connection, going down to the grassroots. This is one. And in fact, this can also be done in the health sector where you can provide remote health care where qualified doctors will be able to say if you have even a paramedic over there is able to listen to what a doctor is saying and then deliver that necessary health care at the village level. So this way we can kind of address the gap in critical primary education where when it comes to higher level, I think it is getting expensive. Middle class finds it very difficult to get, it is so expensive that they'll find it difficult to get good degrees. We'll have to address that. I don't have an answer to that because that is at undergrad level or post grad level. Yes. While I might say that we should deliver quality free education universally, but at the higher level I don't know how we can deliver cost effective because then you'll also say what about the quality of teachers. So if colleges start to give very cheap education, who's going to fund them? Who's going to fund the teachers? How are they going to pay the fees? So these are the questions which will have to be addressed, but at least our foundation has to be laid with the primary education. I think this high cost of education is one of the things that disincentivizes people from having more kids. I'm sure it's one of the factors that goes into our declining TFR, total fertility rate. Of course, but people think our population is exploding. I don't think it's exploding anymore. I think it's stagnating if we go down. It's not. We're very below TFR as a country. So many of our states are way below TFR. That is the replacement level of 2.1. I think Karnataka is at 1.6 or 1.7. Kamiladu is similar. So the certain states are somewhere way below the replacement level. But anyway, I think we'll be going to digressing. But yes, how are you going to raise your kids is a huge factor in deciding to go for a family. Largely we see today in urban areas, it moved from say two kids to one kid and from now we call it double income, no kids. People want to live their lives and probably going on to even the phase where people don't want to get married, not have any responsibility whatsoever and live their life to the fullest. But yeah, I mean that is a kind of a natural thing to happen. I guess as the society goes, gets more educated, they don't want to have families. But I think how you will raise your child, the kind of quality of education, quality of life that you can give them or not give them is going to decide that. And yes, it has a bearing on the future. For all those people who keep saying that, you know, our population has exploded and all that, your demographic dividend is now. It's now right now. It is now. Yes. But we need to educate them. Yes. And this will help us get to that 30 trillion mark. That's right. Because if you see China is facing that issue, it has splattered down, its population is declining. Yes. And it is trying to kick start as if it's things that press a button, people will start producing. It won't happen now. It's too late. It's too late for them. It's too late for them. They don't want to address that issue at all now because for years they put in the mind and it has become difficult for Chinese now because the economy is declining. There are various reports which say that, you know, there are no jobs. The cost of living has increased and they don't want to get married or they have been incentivizing getting married. OK. So this is where they are. So for anybody who says India has a population explosion, please, there is no explosion. There's no explosion. There is no explosion. Explosion was the last century phenomenon. Yes. It is on its own. We have managed to control that. Yes. By even our peak, the population peak, which was estimated to be somewhere in 2060 beyond 2050, that has been advanced to somewhere in 2040s. 2040s. Our population is going to start to decline in the 2040s. So we have this 20 odd years to cash in on. Yes. And that's why I go back to my earlier point. Use this, maintain social harmony, national unity. We need peace at home so that we can grow over here, also invite others to come and invest in India because that is a prerequisite. People will not go to strife-prone areas. If there is a problem, they will not go there. So make sure our politics is good. And we can't afford to lose this opportunity. It's like the second opportunity after the Cold War, which we missed out. We missed the other side. We missed that boat. It's incredible that we've got another opportunity and we cannot afford. We just can't afford to miss this because you will have 1.4 billion people, exochalis karor people who are stuck. And then that will cause big problems. Because once the economy doesn't move, and then you have trouble at home, more social troubles at home. And this will directly impact our security, our integrity itself. So we have to make sure our people progress. Yes.
What Are the Steps the Government Should Take to Accelerate the Economy? (19:41)
So let's say we get our education system right. Let's say we get our healthcare system right. Then we still need to keep on doubling our GDP every 7, 7 and a half years to reach 30 trillion. So what are the steps the government can do, can take to accelerate this and to facilitate this? So we just went through that. So like I said, I can't keep stressing enough. Education is one, second is manufacturing. We have to get to 25%. In fact, if possible to 30% of our GDP coming from manufacturing. We have one economist who says that India should not try to be China again and use the services sector, but it will not create that kind of jobs. It will not create those kinds of skill sets. So we need to develop that. Manufacturing is key. We have to be the second factory of the world. We have to, it is possible. We have the skill sets at some level. We do at one time. We used to manufacture a lot of things. A lot of our factory shut down and erstwhile manufacturers started to import from China. I am from a manufacturer's good manufactured goods trading background. Right. So many of the people who used to say manufacture in Punjab, in Gujarat or whatever, all over the place, they just found it easier to just import and brand it in their own brands. They already established people. They used to just. So why did the government allow this cheap, this inflow of cheap Chinese goods? Shouldn't we have raised some trade tax barriers or something? We thought it will improve our relations. Our relations with China. That's never going to happen. I think that was the thought process. We failed to reach the Chinese. And as a result, today we have a huge trade deficit with them. Whatever we import from China, whatever is all doable at home. It is all doable. And this is nothing to do with, say, import substitution. We're not talking of some advanced thing that we will just say. These are basic things that we ought to manufacture because it's in our interest. If we manufacture all that, we'll get to the global supply chain. We know be part of the assembly lines of other countries who are requiring all kinds of components which can manufacture over here. That's one. Secondly, get into the supermarket shelves of all these companies. All over the world, that's billions and billions of dollars of business. It helps our economy. It helps getting employment over here. It makes our people richer. It's a no brainer. So it's nothing to do with import substitution. It is to do with our own interests. And that is key for our economic growth. That double-digit growth that we can target can only come when our exports are growing. It cannot come with just local consumption. There is a limit to that. So how much can this be driven by the states and how much by the center? I just mentioned the states can do a lot. And I'm a believer of federalism. I think a lot of people are against that. But I'm a believer of federalism. The state should have more power, even more financial clout. Unfortunately, the center always wants to hold, regardless of whoever is in power. Whenever they're in Delhi, they want to control the states. This has happened over the decades. But I'm a firm believer that the states should have the power to do things. I'm also of the opinion that the states should also have control over roads and railways and ports. Because the railways can't deliver everywhere. Then there is politics involved in who gets more rail lines and stations and things like that. Look at Bangalore's example. There's a dying need for suburban railways for decades now. Right, because the roads are too narrow. But it didn't happen. It is still going at a very slow pace. There is a project, but it is going at a slow pace. Why can't the state governments also create their own rail networks, for instance? Just like how metros have been created. Why not even the rail networks? How about ports? Once you have ports, why wait for the Indian railways to connect the port with the cities? For example, can there be models where the state has the authority or the power to execute such projects so that they are able to expand their industrial base? Things like that. Similarly, with roads and things like that. But it can only do it if it has the money. With the GAST coming in and a lot of other things which have been centralized. So the power of the state to raise more revenue has gone down. So they are just depending on either tax, petrol and diesel or alcohol. So these are very few avenues left for the state to raise funds. Apart from that is traffic fines. But if they have more money in their hands, they'll be able to do a lot more things. They'll be able to invest. Health and education is a state subject. So it should be the preserve of the state. Going back to that, talking about which, I think we should also clearly start to separate the center and the state list and the concurrent list. There's a lot of duplication of schemes happening for political reasons, which is leading to wasteful expenditure. So the state should be given more power to do things for its people, for the people of that state. And the center should not interfere. So the center cannot offer something for all farmers everywhere. Agriculture is a state subject. So for example, if the state has more money, it can do something for its farmers. The state has more money, it can do something for its industry, for its infrastructure. The center's sole or primary responsibility is the defense of the country. We are not even spending enough on our defense. It went to historic lows, lower than what we spent in the lower since 1962 war. We went so far below. So the primary responsibility of the state, I'm saying that is center or union, is defense of the country. Defense and foreign policy. Yeah, that's one. Second, your foreign policy, conducting all that stuff. But for everything else, because I am someone who believes in decentralization, that is where you're able to deliver better. I'm also the belief that, say, BBMP over here, the municipal corporation, it needs to be split up. It's useless. I see. Like, if this area has its own council, it will be able to understand the needs of this area better and deliver better. So this will help. So yeah, federalism, the state comes key. And I just mentioned a while back that, you know, have a representative in all our embassies or consulates, but able to talk to a lot of people over there, you know, attract capital, find export markets. This is imperative. I think our economy will grow if the states have more power. Right.
Are We on the Right Track As A Country? (26:46)
And what about infrastructure? So we are building about 50 kilometers of highways every day, apparently, and lots of railroads and all that, railway lines. And we are coming up with new airports and all that. So are we doing enough or do we need more? We need to really totally interconnect the whole country. So are we on the right track? No amount of infrastructure in India can be enough. Okay. It's like that. We just need to build because there's so much more to connect. We are way behind. Okay. I mean, we have been talking of, you know, one trillion dollars in infrastructure spending for a long, long time. And obviously we are spending that money. It's a no brainer. Because infrastructure connects people. Infrastructure construction making itself creates lacks of jobs. And if you're especially manufacturing all that stuff over here, your economy is growing. So your steel, cement, the manpower, whatever it is creating jobs over here. And once you it's all connected, makes easier for people to move. I mean, look at this. We have some of the highest logistic costs in the world. Okay. At about say 12% or something. I see. Whereas others are at what, five or 6% or 8% something like that. Okay. We lose out on that. So the more better the infrastructure, the lower our internal costs are and we'll be more competitive. It's a no brainer. We need more infrastructure. For a long time we disregarded it. But then obviously changed with the watch by government starting the golden quadrilateral project. And since then we have just taken off and we understood the need for infrastructure, not only there, but even the border areas, you know, we need to connect our border areas. I mean, we cannot be left out of our, of our development. Totally.
Do We Have Enough Ports? (28:27)
Yes. Do you think we have enough ports or do we need to invest in more ports? Same thing. We need more ports. We need more ports. Along with port comes the connectivity. Connectivity. Exactly. So all, all cities or manufacturing centers have to be connected with the port. Right. All right. You, you, you cannot have congested ports. We have a lot of time, you know, where, you know, I import, right? Yes. And the time I get the goods so many days pass. Okay. Not only that, even the, you know, the number of people who are managing over there, including our customs people, they have to be quicker so that the goods are released quickly because in this time of just in time, global, global supply chains, everybody has working, is working on strict schedules, strict timelines. You cannot afford to have delays on ports. Yes. And definitely not when it comes to clearance of goods. That is because of other issues, right? We have to streamline that also. So yes, more number of ports and connectivity to all the centers. So like something like what we are doing with the, with the freight corridor, right? The dedicated freight corridor, one which is connecting from Bombay to Delhi and then Calcutta to Delhi and that side. So we need something for the South as well. You know what? It is, it is cheaper. I'll talk from my experiment. It is cheaper to deliver goods from Delhi to Bangalore and then send from Bangalore to Delhi. Okay. It's double the cost. So it's like if I have to send goods from Bangalore, it costs me a lot more. I see. And we lose out. I see. So there are various things. So yes, infrastructure is a key and one of the most critical elements for our growth, including say high speed rail, which is really, you know, people say, what you're talking, we need high speed rail. The faster people move, the better it is. You will be able to expand your businesses in multiple places because we are able to reach everywhere very quickly at short notice. Totally. Yes. And imagine all the money that will be spent in creating that infrastructure. All that will be ploughed into our economy. That itself will give a boost to our GDP. Right. So right now we have one high speed rail line that's being built. That is Ahmedabad to Bombay. That's it. Mumbai. Not enough. Not enough. We need more. Bangalore, Chennai is a no brainer. Okay. I mean, the number of people who move between Bangalore and Chennai by various means, personal cars, buses, trains, plane, high speed rail is a no. Do we have too many cars in India?
Do We Have Too Many Cars In India? (30:51)
No. Do we need more public transport, high quality? Of course we need more public transport, high quality public transport. But do we have more cars? No. If you calculate number of cars per thousand people, it is far lesser. So obviously, I mean, having more cars adds to the economy as well. But obviously a congestion on the road. But that could be an aspirational thing. People buy it, but they will use it for their own, you know, when they want to use it with their family or something. But as far as your daily commute goes, we need proper public transportation so that, you know, because it's a lower cost, right? Public transport is far cheaper than using your own vehicle. It is, yes.
How Much Can Culture and Tourism Contribute to Indias GDP? (31:26)
Yes. How much do you think culture and tourism can contribute to India's GDP? Huge. Huge. I mean, imagine which is the country which attracts the largest foreign tourists in the world? France, is it? France. Yes. India has far more to offer the world. Far more. Far more offer to the world. Where are we lacking? Infrastructure again. Infrastructure. That's what? Infrastructure again. Yes. I mean, it is more expensive for me to travel from here to say Northeast. Beautiful part of our country. Absolutely. It is so expensive to travel over there. People think, "My Thailand is here. I am going to go there." Yes, exactly. So, yeah, that is one. So internal tourism is one second. We have so much to offer to the world. Totally. You make that infrastructure, make it inviting for the people to come. Again, it will depend on the image of the country, right? The image of the country that it is a piece to itself. It is inviting. You know, everybody is safe. So obviously, some of the negative things that goes out in the press abroad especially kind of hurts in that direction. It does. And we have to correct that. Yes. But also, we have to make sure that actually there is peace and harmony over here. Yes. People are safe. You know, you don't have to take everything in a negative manner and go back and be defensive about it. Are there issues over here? Of course, there are issues. Can there be a press? Of course, they can be addressed. Yes. And make it better and then go and tell the India story to the world. Also, in the entire neighborhood, right? The whole thing can be integrated. Okay, I have created… We have forgotten or rather not spoken about how we can integrate our neighbors into our economy. Yes. For our own economy and for our security. Yes. Sri Lanka is a no-brainer. Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, all these countries should be integrated to our economy even if they have… if the other countries, our neighbors have a trade surplus with us, it's fine. But the people will be dependent on our economy for their livelihoods. Yes. It will maintain peace and stability in our neighborhood. Right. Plus, economy. And are people able to easily go and sell goods to them? For that, again, you will need to produce goods. Yes, right. And again, we come back to the manufacturing part. We have to… So even when you see our… you know, when you talk about globalizing the rupee, we don't export much. So what will people do with all the rupees? All the rupees, yes. All right. So if we are exporting a lot, the rupees can be utilized as well. Yes. So it's all interlinked. But it is a great opportunity for us. We are in a geopolitical sweet spot. We cannot miss this sport. I think it is exciting time. We just need that vision. We need focus. Yes. And we need peace at home. Absolutely. So let's end on that very positive note.
Thank you very much for another wonderful question. Thanks, sir. Thanks so much. Thank you. Hope you enjoyed the conversation. Please share this on your Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp so that this podcast reaches a wider audience.