Finance Minister P. Chidambaram: 'India Can Supply Food and Clothing to Half the World'Chidambaram dice sobre la educación:
Indian finance minister P. Chidambaram has the knack of disarming people with his readiness to acknowledge India's failings even as he pitches the country's strengths. He admits India's infrastructure and regulatory regime in some areas are weak, its schools need improvement, and that China can show India how to "think big." In an interview with the Boston Consulting Group and India Knowledge@Wharton conducted in Mumbai earlier this year, Chidambaram expressed confidence that India's talent can power global R&D, and its factories and farms can produce "virtually anything" to feed and clothe half the world.
We have the best colleges and institutes in this country, and we have the worst schools in this country. We have a long way to go before we can make our school system first-rate. We are pouring huge amounts of money into expanding the school system and improving its quality. The democratization of education in India has no parallel anywhere in the world.Sobre innovación:
In the process of democratization, we have lost our top quality, the teaching and instruction quality in our schools and the quality of books. I admit those problems. But we are now spending large amounts of money on improvements. At the other end, we have among the best institutes in the world -- institutes of technology, institutes of management and medical colleges. Therefore, as I said, we have the best and the worst. While we are proud of the best, we have to do a lot more hard work before we can make the worst better.
We spend a fraction of our GDP on R&D. That's because the bulk of our resources are spent on much-needed social infrastructure and physical infrastructure. But we recognize the value of invention, discovery and innovation, which is why we don't regret the fact that some of our best human resources have migrated to other countries to take advantage of the opportunities available there in research and development.Por último, la relación con China:
Many of them are coming back. Also, many countries are realizing that instead of allowing human resources to migrate, it is better that we take the work to where they are. This is why Microsoft has set up its largest research center outside the United States in India. General Electric and several other companies have also set up very large research centers in India, because the human resources are available here.
But all this requires a lot of money. The government is putting in some amount of money, but that is not enough. It's the private sector which has to put in more money and I think our companies are realizing the value of this. For example, our biotech companies are putting more money into this.
The payback will come in the long run in terms of new products, new designs, new uses for old products, new inventions -- it will come. But while we are a resourceful country, one has to be modest about one's ambitions on R&D funded by India. We should actually leverage the splendid human resources we have to attract capital for R&D purposes.
Knowledge@Wharton: Knowledge@Wharton recently invited Indian and Chinese students to participate in international essay contest on "What can India and China learn from each other?" What do you think are the opportunities?
Chidambaram: I don't know what China can learn from India, but I do know what India can learn from China. India can learn from China how to be extremely focused on goals. India can learn from China in the area of project implementation; the Chinese implement projects ahead of time. India can learn from China about dreaming big. China is now planning the world's tallest building, the world's largest deep-sea port, the world's largest airport. I think we, too, should learn to dream big, like China.