AN ECONOMY UNSHACKLED
Although the world has just discovered it, India's economic success is far from new. After three postindependence decades of meager progress, the country's economy grew at 6 percent a year from 1980 to 2002 and at 7.5 percent a year from 2002 to 2006 -- making it one of the world's best-performing economies for a quarter century. In the past two decades, the size of the middle class has quadrupled (to almost 250 million people), and 1 percent of the country's poor have crossed the poverty line every year. At the same time, population growth has slowed from the historic rate of 2.2 percent a year to 1.7 percent today -- meaning that growth has brought large per capita income gains, from $1,178 to $3,051 (in terms of purchasing-power parity) since 1980. India is now the world's fourth-largest economy. Soon it will surpass Japan to become the third-largest.
The notable thing about India's rise is not that it is new, but that its path has been unique. Rather than adopting the classic Asian strategy -- exporting labor-intensive, low-priced manufactured goods to the West -- India has relied on its domestic market more than exports, consumption more than investment, services more than industry, and high-tech more than low-skilled manufacturing. This approach has meant that the Indian economy has been mostly insulated from global downturns, showing a degree of stability that is as impressive as the rate of its expansion. The consumption-driven model is also more people-friendly than other development strategies. As a result, inequality has increased much less in India than
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