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Feb 20, 2004
Arun Jaitley’s insider-view

Arun Jaitley became a successful lawyer when still very young and is still among the highest income-tax payers in the country. He is today a rising political star. What a rare and unusual combination! Being a person who backs his arguments with clinching facts, he’s a great persuader. As Commerce Minister he earned worldwide admiration at the Cancun trade talks, as a man who stood his ground for India’s --and the Third World’s-- rights at the WTO.

Delivering the 20th anniversary commemoration speech on Jan 3, 2004 at Vigil, a Chennai based public opinion forum, he made many hitherto unknown points. Also, for a very political person, the speech is devoid of overt biases or barbs aimed at domestic political opponents. The transcript of the speech --entitled, ‘India- from Developing to Developed’--, which you can read here, is however somewhat disjointed, as such transcripts are wont to be. For readers of GoodNewsIndia, the following points he makes might be of immediate interest.

How far India seems to have come in the very few years since the creaky, half-century old doors of its closed economy opened? And how far might it now go! Jaitley observes a strange new pattern among the industry tycoons who invariably accompany the Prime Minister during his travels abroad. In the past, Indian companies were looking for collaborators and investors, but now, Jaitley finds, “a very large number declared that they had come to these countries looking for investment avenues and opportunities in those countries. I saw this in China. You can count on the fingers of one hand the number of Chinese investors in India.”

Remember the scare of a few years ago, of Chinese goods swamping India? Jaitley recounts how a Chinese Minister who met him recently, was murmuring about Indian products flooding China. He undelines the distinction between China’s State-driven economy and our entrepreneur-driven one in a true democratic framework. It is becoming clear which has the better chance of prevailing over the other.

With his insider-advantage, Jaitley is able to get a measure of how well India’s medical prowess is asserting itself. 30% of all doctors in the US are Indian and 10% of revenue of major hospitals in India is from visiting foreigners. India is now the regional hub for healthcare-- our embassy in Dhaka issues about 400 visas a day on medical grounds. As West ages, the need to care for its elderly has made Indian nurses jump the visa queue ahead even of software engineers. 

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