Monday, December 6, 2010

Should India refuse foreign aid?

With an economy that is continuing to gallop ahead, should India still receive overseas aid from countries like the UK? That's what Andrew Mitchell, the UK’s secretary of state for International Development, and Pranab Mukherjee, India's finance minister, met to discuss last week.

India has for some time struggled with an identity crisis. It is battling to reconcile its image of emerging superpower, that has itself given millions in aid to countries like Sri Lanka and Pakistan in times of crisis, with the reality of being a nation that is still home to a large proportion of the world's poor.

India's rich are getting even richer, and this wealth is starting to manifest in startlingly crass extravagances. Witness, for instance, the billion-dollar, 27-floor monstrosity of a house recently built by the Ambanis, one of the wealthy Indian business dynasties.

Yet India is still ranked 119th among 169 countries in the latest edition of the Human Development Index (HDI) published last month. This means India is well below similar emerging economies such as China (ranked 89) and even behind poorer neighbours such as Sri Lanka (ranked 91).

The HDI ranks countries on measures of well-being such as life expectancy, education, and standards of living. Under the shiny visage of India's economy, indicators such as the HDI are particularly telling, revealing the extent to which the government still neglects much of its population. India's social development lags so far behind its economic development that it is a scandalous betrayal of its poor.

December 1 was World AIDS day, and India has a staggering 2.5 million people with HIV. Understandably, many Indians feel frustrated that their country's image in the West is too often one of dirt and disease.

There's much more to India than that, it's true. But though India might want to feel that it has moved beyond the dependency of foreign aid - and countries like the UK might wonder why they are still giving millions to a country that is rich enough to have a competitive space programme - until the government honours its duty to all of its citizens, not just the wealthy and privileged, it is too early for aid donors to give up their commitments.


  1. For me, the concern is that India will now fully embrace materialism and its perils, rather than draw on its incredibly beautiful and powerful legacy of spirituality, manifested in ancient art, philosophies and practices.


  2. We were discussing this very subject on the British Labour Party Facebook page, and I came across your blog while looking for information,it helped me order my own thoughts on the subject.

    Thankyou for an informed and sensible opinion.


  3. Hi Hugh,

    Thanks for your comment. It's a tricky issue I think and not one with an easy answer.

    Glad you liked the blog.


  4. Thanks Priya for the information,....
    Keep going priya

  5. Thanks for the Informasiana
    verywell and thank you.....
    Good article you have here.