In This Review

Turn of the Tortoise: The Challenge and Promise of India’s Future
Turn of the Tortoise: The Challenge and Promise of India’s Future
By T. N. Ninan
Oxford University Press, 2017, 328 pp.

The veteran business journalist Ninan has produced a deeply informed and readable survey of India’s problems and prospects. He labels the country a tortoise for the decades of economic policy mistakes that have left it “the last major poor country on earth.” The chief obstacle to growth has been inefficient governance and its legacy of market-stifling regulations and corruption. In the absence of an economic crisis, there has been no impetus for systemic reform. But a huge middle class is emerging and doing more for itself, independent of the government. The country has entrepreneurs, engineers, cheap labor, and a huge market; it can cope with its infrastructure problems; China and Pakistan pose security challenges but not existential threats; a set of active nongovernmental organizations has developed; and constitutional democracy is contentious but secure. For all its complexity, the vision in Ninan’s crystal ball is clear: expect annual per capita income to pass the $6,000 mark before long and for India to bid to host the Olympics as a statement that it has finally arrived as a fully developed society.