A commenter writes:
I would love to know more about the mechanisms by which the Chinese government is more efficient than the Indian government, but this is just cheerleading and axe-grinding.For this post, I'll assert an explanation. In previous posts, I contended popular explanations for the difference in performance are unsatisfactory:
Corrupt Chinese Babus Get the Job Done - Chinese officials are corrupt but still manage to meet targets so corruption isn't a decisive explanation for missed targets in India.China is ahead not because of a lack of disadvantages or unfair advantage but because it has done much more to cultivate the necessary human capital for creating a rich country.
Libya: Chinese v. Indian Government Ability to Get Things Done - If China can pull off a rapid evacuation in a country where it exerts no control then India can't claim China is able to do stuff just because of authoritarian government.
Last summer, a New York Times article, "A High-Tech Titan Plagued by Potholes," sought to explain the country's weak infrastructure and frustrated efforts.
"The problem is a dearth of engineers — or at least the civil engineers with the skill and expertise to make sure those ambitious projects are done on time and up to specifications."The cause of this talent scarcity is the pull of better paid industries.
"Its much-envied information technology industry generates tens of thousands of relatively well-paying jobs every year. But that lure also continues the exodus of people qualified to build the infrastructure it desperately needs to improve living conditions for the rest of its one billion people — and to bolster the sort of industries that require good highways and railroads more than high-speed Internet links to the West."But the article doesn't inquire about the root of the shortage. Ideally, there should be enough good engineers in India to meet both the needs of private and public sectors. After all, China Railways can hire thousands of new engineers every year despite the lure of "information technology, management consulting or financial services" and other expanding industries.
"Moreover, many civil engineers who earn degrees in the discipline never work in the profession or — like Mr. Mandvekar — leave it soon after they graduate to take better-paying jobs in information technology, management consulting or financial services."
“You don’t get the best quality in civil engineers, because today the first choice for students is other branches” of engineering, said K. P. Raghavan, an executive vice president in L.& T.’s construction division. “We are compensating with lots of training.”
There isn't a human capital shortage in China because public education is much better. Most of us have heard Shanghai students did very well on PISA, an international math, science, and reading test of 15 year olds. The Shanghai results are admirable but the impressive accomplishment of Chinese education is the progress of poor regions:
Citing further, as-yet unpublished OECD research, Mr Schleicher said: “We have actually done Pisa in 12 of the provinces in China. Even in some of the very poor areas you get performance close to the OECD average.”What a revelation. The inland farmer's child is getting a public education comparable in results to rich countries. (Chinese public education is still flawed with high fees too burdensome for the poor for the last three years of high school.) The latest Pratham survey of rural Indian education shows the teachers might not even be showing up:
However even by grade five, when most kids are nine or 10, only about half, or 53.4%, are able to read at a level pegged for seven or eight-year-olds, marginally up from a year earlier.
In 2009, the number of kids in fifth grade who could read at a second grade level was 52.8%, down from 56.2% a year earlier.
This comparison of education results, the difference between first world standards in China and no learning in India, is far more stark than the 40 years it will take India to complete the Kashmir Railway and the 5 years it took for China to connect to Tibet. India has a shortage of good engineers because its public education is terrible. More troubling for India is the lack of improvement over the last few years. The survey even indicates a decline in some 2010 results. This generation of India hasn't been well educated so expect China to maintain its lead and accelerate further for another generation. There is no indication of change so another generation will be poorly educated and India will lag for at least 2 generations.