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Growth incomplete without social progress: Amartya Sen

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Noted economist and Noble Laureate Amartya Sen today said India's growth story will be incomplete without improving social indicators like literacy, health and women's participation in economic activities.

He also said the country's democratic tradition, with its multi-party system and which involves the active participation of civil society, is a great asset and contrasted it to the authoritarian dispensation in China.

"Growth is very important, but it is not adequate in itself. You have to do other things also. Growth must involve improvement in social services," Sen said while addressing the World Conference on Recreating South Asia here.

Sen, who is Thomas W Lamont University Professor at Harvard University, however, added that growth, as understood by an increase in per capita income, is also essential.

"Growth is extremely important to increase our living standard. It is because of growth during recent years that the voice of South Asia is being heard in the international arena," he said.

Citing the two Asian giants -- China and India -- Sen said that our gross national product may be close to China's, but India is still far behind its neighbour in terms of social indices like life expectancy, rate of immunisation, literacy and infant mortality.

"Even Bangladesh beats us in some social indicators like women's participation in workforce, though their income is only half of India's," he said.

The 1998 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, however, said that India's democracy is its strength. He gave examples from recent Chinese history, including the Great Leap Forward (1958-61) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) to stress that authoritarian regimes fail to address issues of governance.

"We should not underestimate the power of the people but rather, further enhance it. In China, decision-making lies with a handful of ruling elite and this creates the disconnect," Sen said, adding that democracy is much more than elections and separation of powers.

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First Published: Thu, February 24 2011. 15:51 IST