India should not become sicker before it becomes richer: Chief Economic Adviser

India’s Chief Economic Adviser V. Anantha Nageswaran said a healthy population is the fundamental requirement in the push towards the country becoming a developed country by 2047.

“It used to be said of China, that it may become older before it becomes richer. It should not be the case that India becomes sicker before it becomes richer,” he said in his inaugural address at the Madras Management Association’s annual convention 2024 with the theme – India@2047-Leapfrogging to the Future.

“We all saw how our relatively unhealthy population became more vulnerable to the impact of COVID. And today when I see multinationals speak of India as the next frontier for processed food, It makes me worry,” Mr. Nageswaran said.

“You see sports personalities promote and become ambassadors of unhealthy foods. And if you look at data on child obesity, child diabetes is alarming as far as India is concerned,” he pointed out. A physically fit and mentally healthy population is required. Consumption of social media is antithetical to a mentally healthy population. The health aspect is a responsibility of businesses and individuals, he added.

Sustained growth

He said by the end of March 2024, India’s economy would have grown over 7%, which makes it three consecutive years of 7% growth post COVID.

The Reserve Bank of India estimates that for the year ending March 2025, India would be growing at 7%, which would make it the fourth consecutive year, Mr. Nageswaran said.

India is on track and well placed for 2047. “While we need to be optimistic and confident and have pride in our abilities in our endowments, realistic assessments of the challenges, realistic assessments of our prospects and the awareness and consciousness about our own cognitive limitations are required,” he said.

Note of caution

“In the past, after a few years of good growth, excess optimism takes over and we end up taking bad investment decisions, bad borrowing and lending decisions, which get into the spiral of overheating in the economy. Inflation shoots up, the current account deficit picks up and then we find ourselves going back to square one. That should not happen,” Mr. Nageswaran said.

He pointed out that skilling and creating employment opportunities are essential, especially in an economy that is going to be driven by technology with the advent of artificial intelligence.

Mr. Nageswaran said energy transition and determining the right energy transition mix amid the pressures exerted by the developed nations on developing nations on climate change, would be another key aspect.

He also pointed out that the commercial sector finds a regulator to be a nuisance. But they don’t realise that regulators are here not to post hurdles for growth and development, but to ensure that it continues uninterrupted much longer.

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

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