Making a strong pitch for economic optimism, speakers at a high-profile event at the elite London School of Economics said India, 'a land of a billion opportunities', had a potential to achieve double digit growth rate.
Hosted by LSE's India Observatory, the event included release of Rajya Sabha MP and economist N K Singh's book Not by Reason Alone: The Politics of Change by Shobhana Bhartia, chairman of HT Media, and an engaging panel discussion and interaction with students.
The panel included Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, Lord Meghnad Desai, LSE-based economist and academic, Lord Chris Patten, chancellor of the University of Oxford, and Lord Nicholas Stern, I G Patel professor of Economics & Government at LSE.
In the book, Singh, who has played a key role in India's economic reforms, draws on his diverse experiences to comment on the past and present of the politics of change.
He said good politics led to good economics and mentioned the unprecedented 11.03 per cent rate of growth recorded by Bihar in the latest official estimates.
"I see India as a land of a billion opportunities, not a land of a billion problems. Lot of good things are happening. we should be optimistic," Ambani said.
Compared to other recession-hit countries, India had 'less baggage' and a 'strong balance sheet', and was in a 'great position' to start off, he said.
According to Ambani, nine per cent should be India's default growth rate when it had the potential of at least 11 per cent.
"We need more responsible government, a change of governance, and build more institutions. India is in a fortunate position compared to the rest of the world. We have less baggage, a young population.
India's strength is all about soft power," he said. Noting that India recorded 7 per cent rate of growth in the last two years of economic downturn, Ahluwalia said India has done 'exceptionally well' to manage the global recession.
"Surely, we are doing something well," he said, adding that reforms were all about restructuring the government.
Lord Patten paid tributes to India's resilience as a nation-state despite diversity, and said though he was a fan off China's economic success, India had been more successful in developing global brands.
"India does not lock up people; it does not have famines and there has not been a single Indian member of the Al Qaeda that says something about India's stability," Lord Patten said.
India, Lord Patten said, needed to invest in higher education and research, and noted that Hong Kong alone had two of the best universities in the world.
Ambani wondered why Indian universities did not figure in the top 100 in the world and called for achieving such an objective within the next 10 years.
Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief of the Express Group, and Lord Stern paid tributes Singh's achievements while in government and lauded his individual qualities that enabled him to contribute extensively to politics, media and economics.
The event was moderated by television presenter Barkha Dutt, and recorded for broadcast on India's NDTV news channel.
Image: The Indian flag flutters as the Surya-Kiran aerobatics team of the Indian Air Force flies past at the Yelahanka air force station in Bangalore. | Photograph: REUTERS/Jagadeesh NV