“The privatisation of well-run government companies serves
only the politicians and their cronies.”

No, that’s not the off-the-record confession of an
investment banker or the cry of anguish by a consumer who has driven over
several toll roads to use Sydney
airport. It’s just a comment from A. Prasad of Chennai,
India,
posted on the BBC’s website along with coverage of yesterday’s Indian national
strike.

India’s
transport system was hit particularly hard as a key focus of the
protests against
government plans to privatise the Delhi and Mumbai airports. Looks like
they know what happens once Macquarie Airports comes to town.

Beyond these strikes, and the joys of coalition that includes the
Communist Party, lies a bigger problem for India as it tries to match
China’s growth and reclaim its status as an
economic power: the inconvenience of democracy and a population that
exercises its right to protest, a distraction not tolerated by Beijing.

While India
certainly has the brains, education, language and entrepreneurial drives to do
in the tertiary sector what China
is doing in manufacturing, its upside might be limited by its politics. The canny reader with an eye to the world view
should watch for and be wary of rise in Indian commentary about the high cost
of democracy when the rural poor majority dog can wag the urban middle class
tail.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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