The Harvard University South Asia Institute (SAI), in collaboration with the Harvard Club of Chennai (HCC), hosted an interactive discussion with Harvard Kennedy School Professor Lant Pritchett on March 19th at the Taj Coromandel in Chennai. This was SAI’s first collaboration with the HCC and its first event in Chennai.
At the dinner event, Namrata Arora, Associate Director of SAI’s India office, spoke about SAI’s mission and gave an overview of SAI’s activities in India,
including the recent Kumbh Mela Project. Lant then spoke about international development, building on his experience of living and traveling in 40 countries worldwide. He opened his talk by saying that there are three main ways in which he thinks about development- what he writes about (research), what he thinks about (ideating) and what he worries about. His discussion focused on the ‘worry’ side of his thoughts where he spoke about the three main concerns that he had about India and its development:
- The downward spiral of Indian public services and how most Indians have removed themselves entirely from public sector services including hospitals and schools
- How India’s double-digit growth process has been mainly driven by ‘deal-based’ growth which inevitably leads to corruption and finally to rapid economic slowdown
- India today has majority of its people living in the 17th century and a minority living in the 21st century – co-existing ‘cheek by jowl.’ Which of these Indians is really represented to the rest of the world in international dialogue and in international forums? Lant feels that often times the powerful and affluent modernized Indian is over-represented and someone needs to start standing up for the average Indian whose basic needs for health, education, sanitation and consumption are being overlooked.
Lant spoke in detail about these three main worries and then opened up the conversation to the audience for their reactions and comments. The event was attended by over 20 Chennai-based Harvard Alumni.