Economic freedom is as important as cultural and political freedoms
The UN Development Project released its Human Development Report; as usual, India and the countries in its immediate neighbourhood vied for places in the bottom half.
Country HDI Rank Typical Reaction Maldives 84 Sri Lanka 96 India 127 Self-congratulatory on cultural diversity but silent on the dismally low ranking Bhutan 136 Does not count its poor Bangladesh 138 Poverty level reduced by 3%, but income disparity. Better than Pakistan. Nepal 140 Pakistan 142 Victim of an unjust down-grading
Simultaneously, The Cato Institute has released its Economic Freedom Index (using data from the year 2002). India, Bangladesh and Pakistan have moved up in the rankings, while Sri Lanka and Nepal have slipped. Increasing economic competition between India and its neighbours will be to everyone’s interests. The economic agenda of the Indian government will be that one factor that can bring this about.
Country EFI Rank (2004) EFI Rank (2003) India 68 71 Sri Lanka 78 71 Bangladesh 83 87 Pakistan 90 101 Nepal 94 87
The United Nations’ report focuses on the importance of cultural liberty to human development. Cultural liberty has plenty of advocates in India while economic freedom is viewed with suspicion. The Cato Index has yet to be picked up by the mainstream media in India. Yet, economic freedom correlates quite strongly with human development and in contrast to ephemeral cultural liberties, allowing greater economic freedom is well within the government’s reach. The road to prosperity for everyone in the subcontinent is paved with similar stones – those of economic, political and cultural freedoms.