Bloomberg: “In God we trust. Everyone else, bring data.”

For the last two decades, China has grown four times the global growth rate and India three times. Infrastructure, and even the lack thereof, has been an important part of these growth stories. For China, the approach has been characterized by building ahead of demand and facilitating overall economic growth. But for India, growth has occurred despite woefully low infrastructure levels, and the majority of Indian business leaders now believe that infrastructure is the number one constraint on the economy, holding back economic growth by 1.5-3.0% every year−depending, of course, on whose figures you trust.

One of the best ways to trace India and China’s growth trajectories is through infrastructure data – After all, data, as Mayor Michael Bloomberg tweeted, is definitive. The table below shows us that China is leading India in every measure of infrastructure development except mobile density and rural road networks.

                        Six Decades of Infrastructure Development: India and China

 

Infrastructure Services

India

China

1951

1981

2011a

1952

1981

2011

Mobile Phones (Millions)
893.8
−.
986.3
Mobile Phone Density (per 100 people)
 −
76.9
73.2
Power Capacity (GW)
2.3
33.4
206.2
1.8
69.2
1,152.2
Power Generation(Billion kwh)
6.6
129.2
865.8
7.2
8309.3
3695.9
Roads ( 1000 kms)
399.9
1485.4
4,236.4
126.7
897.5
4,063.5
Rail Lines Route Length (kms)
53,600
61,200
64,400
24,500
53,900
93,345
Electrified Tracks (kms)
400
5,400
19,600
1,700
36115
Rail Freight (billion-ton-kms)
44.1
158.5
626.5
.08
571
2,946.5
Rail Passenger (billion kms)
66.5
208.6
978.5
.02
138.2
961.2
Safe Drinking Water
42
88
72
89
Improved Sanitation
7
31
85
85
Sources and Notes:   a2011 India data are for calendar year except when in italics. Indian data for 1951 and 1981 are in financial years. Indian data are from Economic Survey 2011-2012 except telecom data are from Telecom Regulation Authority of India.
Data for China are from China Online and Statistical Communique from Ministry of Statistics.
 −.= not available; Italics represent data for latest available

 

But data is only the beginning of, and not the complete, story. Sometimes, it raises more questions than it answers: What do these data mean with regards to the choices policy makers have made? Were these choices made intentionally and are these choices still relevant today? What conclusions can we draw about the facets of Chinese infrastructure policy? And are there lessons to be learnt for India?

The next few entries will highlight the different growth strategies available to China and India and the choices they have made.

1 thought on “Bloomberg: “In God we trust. Everyone else, bring data.”

  1. tulasidharv

    Rita; Agreed. These numbers do not take into account quality. For example, the length of road network may be the same but the story would be different if one takes into account the width of roads and ride quality. Likewise, the high prevalence of water borne diseases and malnutrition among children in India is not consistent with the rosy data on access to safe drinking water (88%). Tulsi

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