The determinants of prosperity in South Asia

Do state capacity and policy really matter when it comes to wealth among regions in South Asia ? Or is prosperity today determined largely by a mixture of geographical and historical factors ? South Asia as a unit is a reasonable region to study because the introduction to modernity in this entire region was mediated by the British Empire.

Seen in the two figures below are GDP per capita ($ PPP) figures for smaller (< 20 million population) and larger (> 20 million population) regions. The entities include the nations of Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, states and union territories of India, and provinces of Pakistan. Some notes about the two figures:

  1. Green bars denote plains regions, red mountain regions and blue coastal regions.
  2. Bold x-axis labels indicate entities with major metro areas.
  3. Bold borders around bars indicate non-Indian entities.
GDP per capita ($ PPP) of smaller political entities (< 20 million) in South Asia. Indian states, Pakistani regions and nation of Bhutan. Bold x-axis label denotes presence of metro area. Bold border of bar indicates non-Indian entity.
GDP per capita ($ PPP) of larger political entities (> 20 million) in South Asia. Indian states, Pakistani provinces and nations of Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan. Bold x-axis label denotes presence of metro area. Bold border of bar indicates non-Indian entity.

There are roughly five bands of wealth we can identify:

  1. Rich smaller entities of India: Goa, Delhi, Sikkim and Chandigarh. These have GDPs of around $20-25000.
  2. Richer large entities consisting of Indian states and Sri Lanka. GDPs are around $10-12000, and these are predominantly coastal regions.
  3. Succesful agrarian states of India (Punjab and Andhra), mountainous states of India (HP, UT, MZ), Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, and country of Bhutan. GDPs between $8-10000.
  4. Interior Indian states and Odisha, along with all Pakistani provinces. This is the South Asian mean performance of around 4-6000$.
  5. Poor regions: Indian states of UP, Bihar, countries of Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan’s remote area of FATA and India’s remote state of Manipur.

Clearly being on the coast and having a major city help in a major way. In this context, there are three regions which are major disappointments, India’s West Bengal, Bangladesh and Pakistan’s Sindh. All three are on the coast, have major metropolitan areas and even have rich agricultural lands. But their economic performance is significantly below potential.

On the other hand, the economic star of the subcontinent is the Indian state of Haryana. It defies every convention, its not on the coast, lacks a huge metro region and lacks abundant rainfall. But it excels in every aspect of economic activity, its agricultural productivity is second only to Indian Punjab, its industries are varied and well developed and its service sector is a leader in India along with Karnataka. Gurugram hosts genuinely innovative startups, home to at least 7 of India’s 30 unicorns.

An interesting comparison is that between the state of Punjab and the Pakistani province of the same name. Indian Punjab is richer despite lacking a metro area. But there is a convergence in certain aspects. These are rich agricultural areas, with strong remittance networks but they both might lack industrial entrepreneurs.

Bihar, Nepal and Eastern UP together continue to be home to the largest concentration of poor people on planet Earth.  This is an isolated region, with no major cities, neglected by every Indian political entity for many centuries now. The Modi government’s national waterway one has already connected the region upto Varanasi to the ocean, upstream will be a technological challenge. Nepal, can look to Indian states like Uttarakand and Himachal for an effective growth strategy.

Although geography and history play a major role, the example of Haryana shows that those factors can be overcome. Market access, aggregation effects and the presence of mercantile communities are the key variables that determine economic performance.

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DoubleQuoting Myanmar and Assam..

It’s the first quote that carries the implication of genocide, but what of the rest?

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It’s not a joke, is it? Myanmar..

The United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention warns of certain indicators that “provide an environment conducive to the commission of atrocity crimes,” including “increased politicization of identity” and discriminatory “measures or legislation” targeting protected groups. In addition to certain prohibited acts, such as killing members of a group, genocidal States often use legal and administrative tools to facilitate the destruction of a targeted group “in whole or in part.”

In Myanmar, successive governments have implemented measures and legislation to erase Rohingya Muslims’ identity and rights, creating an enabling environment for genocide.

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It’s not a joke, is it? Assam..

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi today expressed his concern over the publication of a National Register of Citizens (NRC) that may put large numbers of people in India’s north-eastern state of Assam at risk of becoming stateless.

It is too early to say what the nationality status of those left off the National Register, some 1.9 million according to the authorities, may ultimately be. UNHCR is concerned, however, that many are at risk of statelessness if they do not possess another nationality.

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That’s a DoubleQuote — but it’s also pattern recognition, and the start of a possible concatenation of such quotes — a mala of urgencies.

BTW, it’s more than possible, as Myanmar >> Bangladesh migration illustrates, that mass migration across national borders may be a pragmatic alternative to genocide — but that threatens national sovereignty, doesn’t it?

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Browncast Episode 53: Memories of partition: Amrik Chattha

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsyniTunesSpotify,  and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at one of the links above.

You can also support the podcast as a patron. The primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else. I am toying with the idea of doing a patron Youtube Livestream chat, if people are interested, in the next few weeks.

Would appreciate more positive reviews!

On this episode, we talk with Dr Amrik Chattha. Dr Chattha is the author of “Safar: A Child’s Walk To Freedom During the Partition of India“, available on Amazon. He talks about life in a Punjabi village before partition and the horrors that followed partition.

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Did the Brits “Indianise” the NorthWest?

I was picking up the comment thread on the linguistics podcast. To my mind there are some inconsistencies about modern-day Pakistan:

(1.) Ever since MBQ conquered Sindh in 712; Sindh has remained under Muslim rule. When it did have local rule it was essentially a tussle between the Baloch and Muslim Rajputs, which has replicated itself to this day. Benazir Bhutto is of Rajput ancestry (Bhatt) while her husband Zardari is a Baloch. The Hindu minority were either merchants or serfs and as far as I know the caste Hindus of Sindh are a basically heteregenous lot (there is only one Brahmin surname among the Amils and the castes tends to have strong geographic regions).

(2.) As for Baluchistan and KPK; It’s basically seen the incursion of Iranian speakers the past millennia or so.

So the real question left is Punjab (the 5th major Indus region Kashmir is out of scope). Continue reading “Did the Brits “Indianise” the NorthWest?”

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Chutzpah- celebrating HM the Queen’s birthday in the Punjab on the eve of the 100th anniversary of Jallianwala Bagh

Today is a very sad day for all Brown People. 100 years ago Indians, who were peacefully protesting on a Sikh Holy Day…

Posted by Zachary Zavidé on Saturday, April 13, 2019

Today marks 100 years since the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. We remember those who were killed merely for demanding basic…

Posted by Barfi Culture on Saturday, April 13, 2019

Continue reading “Chutzpah- celebrating HM the Queen’s birthday in the Punjab on the eve of the 100th anniversary of Jallianwala Bagh”

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Never forget – Comments of the Day

Scorpion Eater:

Numinous:

This may be related to a phenomenon Razib and Omar and their guests observed in the last couple of podcasts: of academics and others on the left in western countries having (and expressing) a really dim view of Hinduism and Hindu civilization, even vis a vis Islam and Islamic civilization.

My guess is that whenever a colonial atrocity is pointed out, even with sufficient evidence, people automatically think of the caste system, untouchability, Sati, etc. at the back of their minds, and that makes them come up with excuses for the coloniser. (Almost no other religion or civilization seems to have so many negatives associated with it in the Western mind, Yoga and stuff notwithstanding.)

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Blame Bengal Famine on anyone but the British

I was flirting with a lot of topics on what to write but I’m just going to leave these tweets out here. We continued the exchange but my blood is now boiling; Vidhi always like to say “calm is a super-power” but I dislike the presumptuousness and arrogance when dispensing on the evil doings of colonialism in South Asia.

I notice many Indian commentators decry UP/Bihar backwardness but it has to do with British policy of bleeding India through her port cities.

British Development in the Subcontinent wasn’t centred in the most populous areas but rather the most productive. Say what you will about the Mughals (and John makes an uncharitable dig at them in a following tweet) but their development focus remained the UP-Bihar.

They may have been a rentier state par excellence but at the very least at least their wealth flowed back into the geographical territories that comprises modern day India

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Babri Masjid & our shared Macaulay Caste

I was trying to reach out to RajMohan Gandhi for a podcast on his new book on South India. As an aside I’m trying to find people to interview for the podcasts since I want to plan out my schedule where I can.

Also Mr. Gandhi has a blog up called Himmat and I linked to his thoughts on Babri Masjid:

The bare bones of a settlement are not hard to identify. One, the Hindu side admits the error in demolishing the mosque. Two, the Indian state admits its failure to prevent the demolition. Three, the Muslim side acknowledges the Hindu community’s wish to see a Ram temple rise on the site as also the Hindu community’s belief that a temple had once stood where the Babri Masjid was built. Four, not far from the site, and yet not too close to it, space for a new mosque is made available by the Hindu side and the Indian state. If necessary, the four steps can be simultaneous. In this dream-like scenario, acknowledgment of wrongdoing and restitution leads to justice as well as reconciliation.

I googled to see the state of the “ruins” of Babri Masjid at the moment and this is what I found:

Below is the original, which if I say so myself is a rather majestic piece of architecture. Simple and striking.

Image result for what has happened to the ruins of babri masjid Continue reading “Babri Masjid & our shared Macaulay Caste”

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