On 3-4 October, World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit 2019, under the theme, Innovating for India: Strengthening South Asia, Impacting the World, included key leaders from government, the private sector, academia and civil society to accelerate the adoption of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies and boost the region’s dynamism.
Hosted in collaboration with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the aim of the Summit is to enhance global growth by promoting collaboration among South Asian countries and the ASEAN economic bloc.
The meeting addressed strategic issues of regional significance under four thematic pillars:
- The New Geopolitical Reality – Geopolitical shifts and the complexity of our global system
- The New Social System – Inequality, inclusive growth, health and nutrition
- The New Ecological System – Environment, pollution and climate change
- The New Technological System – The Fourth Industrial Revolution, science, innovation and entrepreneurship
This year’s Summit will discuss deeper collaboration between South Asia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – a group that includes; Brune, Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, countries. While India has a free trade agreement with 10 ASEAN countries ASEAN–India Free Trade Area (AIFTA).
There will also be sessions on the changing geopolitical landscape and climate change.
According to a Moody’s report on the economic implications of global warming, India’s climate and demographics make it particularly susceptible to climate change. The country is also engaged in a geopolitical shift; building new relationships with both China and the United States.
Since 2016, the World Economic Forum has been supporting India’s move towards smart cities, recommending both business environment and administrative reforms to help city authorities navigate a path to a more integrated digital future.
Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi aimed for a 5 trillion dollar economy by 2024. To attain this target, our GDP needs to grow steadily over the next few years. Experts say it is possible however the biggest challenge is to attain this type of ambitious growth in an environment-friendly way in our present era of climate crisis.
Recent researches of Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment of London School of Economics, have asserted that continued economic growth is feasible provided the intellectual economy is expanded through innovation, technology development for cleaner and greener environment and systems.
World Bank Report also says a low-emission, resource-efficient greening of the economy should be possible at a very low cost in terms of the GDP growth. World Bank economists argued for an environmentally sustainable future growth, India needs to value its natural resources and ecosystems for superior policy framing and decision-making.
Coming to present India, we are witnessing the devastating natural disasters at a higher frequency, fatal heat waves, the worst water crisis and water stress since our independence, are residing in the world’s worst-performing cities in terms of air quality, etc.
The agricultural sector that employs more than 50% of the Indians, struggles with the huge increment of input costs in terms of chemical fertilisers, pesticides, decreasing farm profitability, resulting in farmers’ suicide, food and nutritional crisis among rural communities, increasing rural unemployment, etc.
From the recent cutting edge research work and a few Indian examples, some strategies maybe implemented and a few successful developmental cases may be replicated to attain the desired green growth with significant job creation.
They are as follows.
- Creating Green Jobs: A study titled ‘Green Jobs: Towards decent work in a sustainable low-carbon world’, from United Nations Environmental Program in collaboration with Cornell University Global Labor identified few sectors which maybe focused on as future growth engines that can generate green environment friendly jobs. Some of the sectors are renewable energy, recycling, green buildings, sustainable forestry management, agroforestry, small scale sustainable farming, organic farming, mass vehicle industry like the bicycle industry, etc.
- Community Development: For the last 25 years of Indian developmental story, we focused on two pillars, government and market. But at present, this sort of development resulted in more income inequality and jobless growth. Dr. Raghuram Rajan, former RBI governor and Chief Economic Advisor to Government of India in his recently published book The Third Pillar argued for community development as a tool for economic development and job creation in a more equitable and environment-friendly way.
- Traditional Knowledge: Before the industrial revolution, India used to have 24% of global income with his enriched traditional knowledge in farming, handloom and handicrafts, etc. India’s huge biodiversity enriched us significantly in wealth creation on those days, global experts who are working on climate crisis now argue traditional knowledge, traditional lifestyle and the art of living of indigenous people are very important factors to combat climate challenges and create opportunities for green growth and jobs.
We have many organisations in India which work in generating green jobs with the help of traditional knowledge and community development and thus have helped provide better health and education to people and have achieved considerable success and international accolades.
Deccan Development Trust of Telangana, Timbaktu Collective of Andhra Pradesh, Amar Khamar of West Bengal (organic farming, agroforestry), Khamir of Gujarat, Upasana Studio of Auroville (Handloom & Handicraft), Kudumbashree (Microfinance, Micro Enterprises, Farming) and many more.
Government and businesses may focus on creating and developing these sorts of organisations to create growth and job opportunities while taking care of the natural environment.
Taxing the highly polluting or environmentally degrading businesses initially may support these green community organisations to grow. Presently experts like 2018 Nobel Prize winning economist William Nordhaus and many more argue that environmental/carbon taxes could potentially be used to yield positive net environmental and health benefits with minimal economic costs.
After the liberalisation of the economy in 1991, despite economic growth, India has not done well in terms of protecting the natural environment. A recent survey among 178 countries, India ranked 155 in terms of overall environmental quality.
A new World Bank report finds that environmental degradation costs India $80 billion per year or 5.7% of its economy. So, our 5 trillion dollar dream must take the path of caring for our mother nature and her all flora and fauna.
Our father of the nation Gandhiji once said, “The path is the goal”. He never compromised on his path to attain the goals. Getting inspiration from his thoughts and actions, let the nation chose the sustainable path to attain our big dreams.
Industries pertaining to Water Treatment, Air Treatment, Green Construction, Agriculture Productivity Technologies, Waste Management, Efficiency Delivery, Electric Vehicles and many others who, intentionally or un intentionally, promote/ protect the environment should look towards India because this is the best time with plenty opportunities. An icing on the cake is ‘Government is backing this time’.