India HasTo Focus On Sanitation And Education

Business, China, Company Strategy, Environment, India, Innnovation, Sustainability

IndiaChinaPVC2June2015

By John Richardson

SO far so good, perhaps: During the last financial year (March 31 2014 to 1 April 2015), 58.6 million new toilets were constructed in India, according to official government statistics. This compares with 48.9 million during the financial year 2013-2014.

Narendra Modi has thus made some progress towards tackling the “toilet test” that I set for him last July, shortly after he became prime minister.

He simply has to pass this test if India is to make any substantial economic progress, given that right now around half of the population do not have access to toilets. You cannot even think about attending school if you are sick with malnutrition and diarrhoea resulting from inadequate sanitation. And, of course, if you do not attend school, you have no chance whatsoever of escaping from poverty.

But Modi has a long way to go if he is to achieve his vision of a ‘Clean India’* by 2 October 2019, which is defined as providing access to toilets for every rural household by that date. This would result in bringing to an end the practice of open defecation.

(‘Clean India’ is also referred to as Swachh India, or Swachh Bharat Abhiyan).

“It will take 3,800 toilets to be constructed every day to get close to the vision of Swachh India, as this is a country where 90% of households are equipped with colour televisions and 70% with mobile phones – but the number of toilets stands at an abysmally low 30%,” wrote the New India Express in this article.

Let’s be optimistic, though, and assume that Modi and his government hit the October 2019 target. They must by then also make schools worth attending in the first place. This Financial Times article points out that:

  • More than half of rural India’s fifth-year students could not read a simple story from a second-year book textbook fluently, according to a 2014 survey by an Indian non-governmental organisation.
  • Around 75% of third-year students were unable to complete two-digit subtraction, whilst 20% of the students in the same year could not recognise numbers up to nine, said the same study.
  • In 2009, India ranked 73rd of 74 participants in the OECD’s triennial testing of reading, maths and science skills.
  • Why is India falling short on education? Because the main focus has so far been on building schools instead of paying enough attention to what is actually taught inside schools.
  • Many rural schools are woefully understaffed, with just one or two teachers running mixed classrooms, with students of all ages and competencies sitting together in one classroom.
  • Teachers have job security, but no real accountability for the performance of their students. As a result, surveys indicate that 15-25% of teachers are absent on any particular day.

If you are rich in India none of the above matters because you can afford to install a toilet and send your kids to a good private school. But if India is going to fully cash-in on its demographic dividend (50% of the population is less than 25 years of age and 65% less than 35), it has to deal with these challenges.

These are the challenges that must be constantly discussed right now, that simply have to be at the centre of every single debate about India’s economic future. It is entirely wrong to lose our focus on tackling these basic needs and instead get into over-simplistic discussions about how strong headline GDP growth and “the rise of India’s middle classes” will by themselves guarantee success.

It is also entirely wrong to use  forecasts for headline GDP growth as the only measure of the pace of India’s chemicals demand growth and on this basis assume that India will quickly catch up with China (see the above chart as an example of the gap between the two countries). You must also look at how many people are escaping extreme poverty in India to get a real, worthwhile handle on growth in chemicals demand. And people can obviously only escape extreme poverty if basic needs, such as sanitation and education, are adequately met.

As is the case in China, this is all about three main final objectives in India: Jobs, jobs and more jobs. It should go without saying that there is no point in putting the cart before the horses in India: Trying to create millions of new jobs, through better roads, railways, ports, electricity supply and easier investment rules without, in parallel, dealing with these basic needs. Because if people are not healthy and educated, they cannot go to work.

India should follow China in making the provision of basic needs as its number one priority. This World Health Organisation factsheet shows how China has reduced the number of its people that practice open to defecation to 14 million. This compares with 626 million people in India.

And the chart below shows how China and India compare on improvements in school enrolment.

IndiaChinaSchoolEnrolment

But India should not try and follow China in creating vast numbers of manufacturing jobs in the same sectors in which China already dominates globally – and will continue to dominate.

India has to instead be realistic about what kind of employment it needs to create over the next 10, 20 and 30 years.  I will provide some thoughts on this in a later post.

PREVIOUS POST

The Developing World: Getting Your Strategy Right

01/06/2015

By John Richardson IT IS just plain intellectually lazy, and, more importantly, ...

Learn more
NEXT POST

Oil Prices, The Chase For Yield And Another Roll Of The Dice

03/06/2015

By John Richardson GILLIAN Tett, the outstanding financial journalist, talked ab...

Learn more
More posts
Global polyethylene oversupply, the highest in 19 years, hasn’t gone away
03/07/2020

By John Richardson BRENT crude futures surged by 80% during the second quarter and enjoyed their bes...

Read
China could be in complete polypropylene self-sufficiency by 2022
28/06/2020

By John Richardson SORRY to labour the point but this comes from a genuine concern for the readers o...

Read
Asian polyethylene price recovery faces multiple challenges
25/06/2020

By John Richardson THERE are reports of significant cuts in Middle East polyethylene (PE) operating ...

Read
China’s long-term ambition for paraxylene self-sufficiency seems close to being realised
21/06/2020

On Friday, I examined how China’s paraxylene (PX) net imports could fall to as little 8m tonne...

Read
China’s big declines in 2020 PX and PP imports: the impact on its major trading partners
18/06/2020

By John Richardson CHINA’S refineries and petrochemicals plants came roaring back to almost fu...

Read
Paraxylene demand collapses as higher China production threatens 6m tonne fall in imports
15/06/2020

By John Richardson DON’T SAY I didn’t tell you that a decline in stock markets would happen. The...

Read
Coronavirus will severely damage the developing world unless we take the right steps
12/06/2020

By John Richardson IT IS a fantastic achievement. “Over the last 25 years, more than a billion peo...

Read
Main Street versus Wall Street and the crisis in the developing world
10/06/2020

By John Richardson RISING equity and oil markets do not necessarily point to a V-shaped recovery. I ...

Read

Market Intelligence

ICIS provides market intelligence that help businesses in the energy, petrochemical and fertilizer industries.

Learn more

Analytics

Across the globe, ICIS consultants provide detailed analysis and forecasting for the petrochemical, energy and fertilizer markets.

Learn more

Specialist Services

Find out more about how our specialist consulting services, events, conferences and training courses can help your teams.

Learn more

ICIS Insight

From our news service to our thought-leadership content, ICIS experts bring you the latest news and insight, when you need it.

Learn more
X

Uncover exclusive industry upates from ICIS

Interested to uncover more articles related to this topic? Explore additional news, insights and intelligence, tailored to the markets you are interested in by accessing exclusive content from ICIS.com

DISCOVER MORE