October 4, 2008

Reform needs some 'vested interests'

The same week that Singapore hosted the first Formula 1 race under floodlights and on its city's streets, Indian newspapers carried more depressing reports and photos about the state of the roads in Gurgaon. Yet, this satellite city to national capital New Delhi was once touted as the Singapore of India, a claim that is truly laughable today.

The difference between Gurgaon's roads and Singapore's — in fact, almost no Indian road would stand up to comparison — is also a measure of the distance India has to travel to bridge the gap in corruption, and, importantly, how little India's political system has perceived the true benefits of economic reform.

Since it is unfair to compare Singapore — the size of a medium-sized Indian district — with a country as large and diverse as India, the analysis here has been restricted to Gurgaon. Gurgaon's administrators seem to perceive no benefit in improving the quality of life and of doing business in their city. Singapore's rulers and citizenry are almost obsessive about the optimum delivery of public services. They are attuned to this way of thinking because they have clearly enjoyed the benefits of vibrant business activity.

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