Fascinating articles (part-I and part -II) on the topic by Arvind Subramanian. They were published in Business Standard on 25/26 Jul 2012 in two columns respectively. These articles are an ongoing work of Arvind Subramanian on Indian states performance.
The purpose of these two is to understand whether growth matters for social outcomes. Not surprisingly it does. However, in a typical India style there is large diversity in states. Hence the title which has been picked from the article (part-2).
Kerala stands out as India’s Scandinavia in having much lower levels of poverty and better health outcomes for children and the population as a whole. These achievements are greater than what would typically hold given Kerala’s income level (Kerala is far away from the line in figures 1, 2, and 3).
Surprisingly, Gujarat, which is India’s China in growth terms, has been less than stellar in reducing child malnutrition. In 2005–06, nearly 45 percent of Gujarat’s children under five were malnourished. In comparably rich states—Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Punjab—the numbers range between 23 and 30 percent, significantly better than Gujarat’s. Gujarat should also be doing better in terms of life expectancy given how rich it is (it is below the line in figure 2).
And, least noticed of all, over the reform period, large, urbanized, coastal and trade-oriented states such as Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Gujarat have been out-performed—against a broad metric that combines income and social outcomes—by tiny and overwhelmingly rural, landlocked, and hill-hobbled Himachal Pradesh. If Gujarat is India’s China, and Kerala its Scandinavia, might Himachal be its Switzerland?
India serves as a very useful place for such policy experiments:
The frenzied downgrading of India’s growth prospects, at the same time as the government has stepped up its social spending, raises an important question about the consequences for social outcomes. How important is growth for social outcomes? This question deserves some careful and dispassionate analysis, over longer and shorter time horizons. One virtue of India being a union of states is that it serves as a laboratory with multiple policy experiments, helping social scientists draw conclusions. This within-India framework can usefully supplement international comparisons.
Really interesting reading. Whenever you read such stuff on India you always wonder how does all this add up? How does someone make any policy at the centre given such diversity..