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Pan Asia economic forum at Stanford

Academics, politicos, officials and others from India, China, Pak and US came together for the conference, writes Shalini Narang.

india Updated: Jun 08, 2006 12:22 IST

Academics, politicos, policy-makers, senior officials and others from India, China, Pakistan and US came together from May 31, through June 3 for the 2006 Pan Asia Conference titled Challenges of Economic Policy Reform in Asia.

The annual conference on various aspects of Asia's economy is organized by the Stanford centre for International Development (SCID). It is a centre within the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research focusing on international trade and development via research on issues pertaining to economic policy reform in developing economies and economies in transition.

In the beautiful venue of the Arrilaga Alumni centre, the experts deliberated on varied economic issues of Asia with a focus on what the emergence of China and India will mean to the region.

Some of the myriad and varied issues presented by the speakers and panellists including Indian politicians, policy makers, bureaucrats and others included productivity comparisons between China and India, federalism and decentralization, economic prospects in Asia, the business environment in Asia: progress and problems and others.

The major issues discussed in perspective of India's economic requirements included greater public private partnership in education, health, energy and other industries, politically rewarding good economics, vociferous propagation of the positives of economic reforms and its benefits to the common man for sustenance and growth of the current momentum of development by pro-reform lobbyists.

In his talk in the context of "Double Digit growth rate for India," Yaswanth Singh elaborated on the need vociferous countrywide propagation of the advantages of economic transformations to the common person. He enumerated the enormous challenges that the nation has to overcome to sustain the economic reform agenda and the challenge of the rising petroleum prices in the world market."

The other important areas of discussion and debate included the need for greater foreign direct investment, and propagation of economic reforms in a milieu of democratic consensus promoting growth with equity.

Via examples of real life scenarios, several speakers starkly pointed the progress differential in India ranging from economic and thereby social development in urban pockets of India on line of Silicon Valley and large rural areas seeped in economic and social pathos on lines of sub-Saharan Africa.

Speaking on India's energy needs, Dr Kirit Parikh, Member, Planning Commission, government of India presented India's current energy scenario and the needs of the growing economy and populace. He said, "We need a diversified strategy to meet India's energy needs and low cost technology adoption is a must."

As the moderator of the energy forum, Vinod Khosla, a venture capitalist, pointed out the need for the use of Ethanol as a gasoline substitute. He emphasised the need for the promotion of environmentally sustainable, alternative technologies for growing energy needs of the world.

Besides panels on development issues and challenges in India, the conference via provoking and challenging panels on comparative and complementary analysis between productivity, rural development, health, and higher education issues in India and China highlighted the long road ahead for India and the challenges including environmental pollution control and others for China.

On the difference on investment in higher education among BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) economies, experts pointed out China's rapid expansion of its higher education initiatives versus India's under-investment in high literacy human capital and the least rapid growth in this important arena that is a key to sustaining high rates of economic growth. To clarify the demographic advantage, the experts pointed that the proportion of Indians in higher education is the lowest among the BRIC economies and despite the perceivably large absolute number of scientists, engineers and other professionals, the stock is not large enough to meet the requirements of the economy.

On the area of Indo-China collaboration, experts pointed the win-win scenarios for the two neighbours. While India can benefit by expanding into labour-intensive sectors like apparel, footwear, and toys, especially in light of the rising wages in China, the information technology sector is an attractive area for the Chinese.