Globalisation, with its challenges and opportunities, is an undeniable reality of our times. Indeed, what the future holds for generations to come will be determined by our collective response to the forces of globalisation. The process of integration of national economies into a global economy has not been without its discontents. Considered and conscientious critiques of globalisation have resulted in initiatives and policy interventions by stakeholders to ensure a ‘benign impact’.
The role of economic globalisation as a factor in the expansion of world economy, resulting in better living standards and in greater freedom for a larger number of our people, stands vindicated. The case of India is illustrative. Through a comprehensive policy of economic reforms with a human face initiated in the mid- 1980s, we have ensured that since 1985, about 431 million Indians have risen above extreme poverty. By 2005, the middle-class in India has expanded to 583 million people, which is about 41 per cent of our population. It is estimated that by 2025-27, India will have surpassed Germany as the world’s fifth-largest consumer market. Because we accepted the reality of economic globalisation, our industry responded by harnessing all factors of national power to meet the challenges of an intensely competitive global economy.
A Boston Consultancy Group (BCG) study has identified 100 global companies of the future from among developing countries. Of these, 21 are Indian. Our foreign exchange reserves, which stood at a little over $ 1 billion in 1990, are now of the order of $ 246 billion. India is the world’s 10th trillion-dollar economy and is expected to become the third largest economy by 2030. Pew’s Global Attitudes Survey ranks Indians as among the world’s most optimistic people. This ‘New India’ is the result of the unshackling of the latent entrepreneurial energies of the nation.
The demands of an integrated global economy and the response thereto have resulted in the emergence of globally integrated enterprises and standardised technologies. The integration of production strategies with value delivery worldwide and a shift from products to production have resulted in the movement of national policies aimed at convergence and symmetry, thereby enabling countries to leverage their competitive advantages for the benefit of consumers and the people at large. The integration of the workforce in developing countries into a global system of production has raised living standards, improved working conditions and expanded the employment market in emerging economies, apart from reducing gender discrimination. Greater transparency in corporate governance, a heightened sense of corporate social responsibility, sharper focus on the maximisation of human resource development are the other demonstrable offshoots.
At the same time, the forces of globalisation have given a new dimension to challenges that we face in common. Terrorism and pandemics are no longer confined to the geographical boundaries of the past. The tremors of poverty and environmental degradation are felt globally, necessitating a global response.
The exclusion of large segments of humanity from the benefits of globalisation and the consequential need to urgently construct a matrix in which the marginalised are integrated with the mainstream remains the most important challenge. Also, the processes of globalisation in the service of humankind must respect and recognise the value of identity and ‘the dignity of difference’. We must ensure a harmonious co-existence of multiple identities in a world united not by blood but by belonging.
In the debate on globalisation, India has advocated respect for plurality, diversity and equity in its widest connotation. Globalisation is an opportunity to be seized in aid of our cherished values of dignity and justice for all. For globalisation to be sustained as a means of ordering the future world order, we need to ask ourselves a few questions. Does it enhance human dignity? Does it create self-respect? Does it encourage creativity? Does it allow everyone to participate in the material blessings of this created world? Does it sustain a climate of equal regard? Does it protect the vulnerable? Does it ensure that no one lacks the means for a dignified existence? Do those who succeed share their blessings with those who have less? Does the economic system strengthen the bonds of human solidarity?
The shape of the new world order will depend upon our collective response to these issues. The Doha Development Round, intended to secure an equitable multilateral trading regime, should be salvaged so that the rules of free and fair global trade that make sense of globalisation for all are established. We must ensure that the process of globalisation establishes not only a more creative and daring world but also a more humane and caring world.
Ashwani Kumar is Minister of State for Industry
This is an edited extract from the speech he delivered at the Commonwealth Business Forum 2007 in Kampala, Uganda, on November 20.