India shouldn't get sicker before it gets richer: chief economic adviser

India's top economic adviser V. Anantha Nageswaran said a healthy population is the prerequisite for making the country a developed country by 2047.

“It used to be said that China could get older before it got richer. It should not be the case that India gets sicker before it gets richer,” he said in his inaugural address at the 2024 annual meeting of the Madras Management Association with the theme “India@2047 – Leapfrogging to the Future”.

“We have all seen our relatively unhealthy population become more vulnerable to the effects of COVID. And today, when I see multinational companies talking about India as the next frontier for processed foods, it worries me,” said Mr Nageswaran.

“You see athletes promoting unhealthy foods and becoming ambassadors for it. And if you look at the data on childhood obesity, childhood diabetes is alarming for India,” he pointed out. The prerequisite is a physically fit and mentally healthy population. Social media consumption is antithetical to a mentally healthy population. The health aspect is the responsibility of companies and individuals, he added.

sustainable growth

He said India's economy would have grown by over 7% by the end of March 2024, meaning it would post 7% growth for three consecutive years after the coronavirus crisis.

The Reserve Bank of India estimates India will post 7% growth for the year ending March 2025, which would be the fourth consecutive year, Mr Nageswaran said.

India is on the right track and well positioned for 2047. “While we need to be optimistic and confident and proud of our abilities, our gifts, realistic assessments of the challenges, realistic assessments of our prospects and awareness and awareness of our own cognitive limitations are required,” he said.

Note of caution

“Historically, after a few years of good growth, excessive optimism sets in and we end up making poor investment decisions, poor borrowing and borrowing decisions, which spiral into overheating of the economy. Inflation skyrockets, the current account deficit rises and then we go back to zero. This shouldn’t happen,” Mr Nageswaran said.

He noted that skills and the creation of job opportunities are crucial, especially in an economy driven by technology with the advent of artificial intelligence.

Mr Nageswaran said that energy transition and determining the right energy transition mix was another important aspect given the pressure that developed countries are putting on developing countries in terms of climate change.

He also pointed out that the commercial sector finds a regulator a nuisance. But they fail to recognize that regulators are there not to create barriers to growth and development, but to ensure that they continue uninterrupted for much longer.

India will be one of the major economic powers, remain socially committed to a fair, just and egalitarian society and remain conscious of sustainability issues, said Vini Mahajan, Secretary, Union Ministry of Jal Shakti, in her keynote address. The Hindu Group was the media partner of the Congress.

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