Soft infrastructure for making in India
Looking at the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business (EODB) rankings, little do we realise that it is not just the criteria defined within the EODB framework that affect the actual ease or unease of it, but that there’s much more to it than meets the eye.
Regarding the 10 parameters in the WB-EODB report, we are upbeat that our country has improved its rankings in six – “Getting Credit”, “Dealing with Construction Permits”, “Protecting Minority Investors”, “Enforcing Contracts”, “Paying Taxes” and “Resolving Insolvency”. However we’ve gone down in four – “Starting Business”, “Trading Across Borders”, “Getting Electricity” and “Registering Property” – but hope to pull up our socks…… and ranks in these.
Analysing the whole issue, more from a maths perspective than from an economics one, I realized that a country’s rankings in other indices have a direct correlation with that of doing business. In the EODB world ranking, New Zealand tops the chart and Singapore comes second with Denmark, South Korea and Hong Kong lined up right behind.
There are five major indices which are interlinked with the EODB index. These are – “Corruption”, “Talent Competitiveness”, “Intellectual Property”, “Global Gender Gap” and “Happiness”. Interestingly, both New Zealand and Singapore feature pretty high on all these while India figures somewhere near the bottom ranks.
The corruption index has New Zealand in top spot as the least corrupt country, while the “Talent Competitiveness Index” places Singapore at number two. In “Happiness” and “Global Gender Gap”, New Zealand occupies the eighth and tenth positions, respectively, and in “Intellectual Property”, Singapore is eighth.
As regards India, in the Intellectual Property (IP) Index, we come 43rd out of 45 countries, in Happiness, 122nd out of 155, in Talent Competitiveness, 92nd out of 118, in Global Gender Gap, 108th out of 144, and in the corruption index we rank 79th.
Talking of the three other countries in the top five in the EODB ranking, third ranker Denmark is least corrupt (shares the first rank with New Zealand in corruption) and almost perfectly happy (second in Happiness). South Korea ranks ninth in IP while Hong Kong is the 15th least corrupt country in the world.
Corruption seems to be the biggest hurdle to progress and causes fear among those who wish to do business in any country, and it is inversely proportional to happiness. Lesser the corruption, happier the people, better the quality of life and the easier it is to do business.
The second biggest deterrent to national progress is the gender gap in the population. Countries that are unable to close this gap do not fare well in overall development. In India, though much is being said and done to bring about gender parity, there are issues that aren’t looked into with greater sensitivity and depth. For instance, we may have made progress in educating girls, but is that enough? What happens to the extremely well educated, highly qualified and absolutely deserving female workforce that is unable to contribute to the economic progress of the nation just because it has to sacrifice its professional life for the betterment of the future of the family? Are there any opportunities provided for such an intellectual workforce to be a part of the nation-building process after it is through with its family building or settling process? If one has not been in the system, one is never allowed to get in.
Why? This is the real gender injustice and inequality that a woman has to face in this country, To close the gender gap, you need to first identify the lacunas instead of just sticking to the run-of-the-mill solutions that men think about women’s progress and national progress. Manpower is crucial to a business environment but ‘womanpower’ is essential! After all, a woman has more power to sacrifice herself.
Regarding talent competitiveness, a nation with sufficiently skilled labour has higher potential of being a preferred business destination. Respect for IP is a basic requirement for any business, especially for M/SMEs, since they have little else. A country which scores high on the IP index chart will definitely be preferred for doing business. Intellectual Property protection is what businesses hinge on, so to ease “Making in India”, we have to curb counterfeiting and stop IPR infringements. Apart from high-quality infrastructure and human capital, we also need to ensure human well-being and the best quality of life for all living in India. This will lead to the ultimate purpose of life—happiness, which in turn is the cornerstone of all relationships and, therefore, business, which is but a relationship. If we can ensure a happy India, only then will there be a conducive environment for healthy and quality living which will enhance the working and business environment, improving productivity for those wanting to either make in India or with India. That, when achieved, will increase the ease of doing business.
So if we work out the actual math of doing business, we realize that it hinges more on the intangible aspects than the tangible ones, and this is supported by the five indices mentioned above. With the same cooking ingredients and hardware, somebody with more love, affection and happiness cooks a tastier dish than someone who lacks these. Probably that’s why even the best hotel in the world can’t beat the taste of the food cooked by your mother. You have to balance the equation of life, providing the right measure of soft infrastructure like quality education and skill training, quality of life, human well-being, health and happiness to support the hard infrastructure, and this may have more far-reaching and longer lasting positive effects on “Making in India” and doing business easily. After all, if you are talking about business, it is more important to get your math right than your economics!
IPR professional,writer, artist, screenwriter, filmmaker and founder & MD, LOGIHQ