RESPONDING TO GLOBALIZATION: INDIA’S ANSWER
Globalization and its Meaning
Broadly speaking, the term ‘globalization’ means integration of economies and societies through cross country flows of information, ideas, technologies, goods, services, capital, finance and people. Cross border integration can have several dimensions – cultural, social, political and economic. In fact, some people fear cultural and social integration even more than economic integration. The fear of “cultural hegemony” haunts many. Limiting ourselves to economic integration, one can see this happen through the three channels of (a) trade in goods and services, (b) movement of capital and (c) flow of finance. Besides, there is also the channel through movement of people.
Globalization has been a historical process with ebbs and flows. During the Pre-World War I period of 1870 to 1914, there was rapid integration of the economies in terms of trade flows, movement of capital and migration of people. The growth of globalization was mainly led by the technological forces in the fields of transport and communication. There were less barriers to flow of trade and people across the geographical boundaries. Indeed there were no passports and visa requirements and very few non-tariff barriers and restrictions on fund flows. The pace of globalization, however, decelerated between the First and the Second World War. The inter-war period witnessed the erection of various barriers to restrict free movement of goods and services. Most economies thought that they could thrive better under high protective walls. After World War II, all the leading countries resolved not to repeat the mistakes they had committed previously by opting for isolation. Although after 1945, there was a drive to increased integration, it took a long time to reach the Pre-World War I level. In terms of percentage of exports and imports to total output, the US could reach the pre-World War level of 11 per cent only around 1970. Most of the developing countries which gained Independence from the colonial rule in the immediate Post-World War II period followed an import substitution industrialization regime. The Soviet bloc countries were also shielded from the process of global economic integration. However, times have changed. In the last two decades, the process of globalization has proceeded with greater vigour. The former Soviet bloc countries are getting integrated with the global economy. More and more developing countries are turning towards outward oriented policy of growth. Yet, studies point out that trade and capital markets are no more globalized today than they were at the end of the 19th century. Nevertheless, there are more concerns about globalization now than before because of the nature and speed of transformation. What is striking in the current episode is not only the rapid pace but also the enormous impact of new information technologies on market integration, efficiency and industrial organization. Globalization of financial markets has far outpaced the integration of product markets.
Gains from Globalization
The gains from globalization can be analyzed in the context of the three types of channels of economic globalization identified earlier.
Trade in Goods and Services
According to the standard theory, international trade leads to allocation of resources that is consistent with comparative advantage. This results in specialization which enhances productivity. It is accepted that international trade, in general, is beneficial and that restrictive trade practices impede growth. That is the reason why many of the emerging economies, which originally depended on a growth model of import substitution, have moved over to a policy of outward orientation. However, in relation to trade in goods and services, there is one major concern. Emerging economies will reap the benefits of international trade only if they reach the full potential of their resource availability. This will probably require time. That is why international trade agreements make exceptions by allowing longer time to developing economies in terms of reduction in tariff and non-tariff barriers. “Special and differentiated treatment”, as it is very often called has become an accepted principle.
Movement of Capital
Capital flows across countries have played an important role in enhancing the production base. This was very much true in 19th and 20th centuries. Capital mobility enables the total savings of the world to be distributed among countries which have the highest investment potential. Under these circumstances, one country’s growth is not constrained by its own domestic savings. The inflow of foreign capital has played a significant role in the development in the recent period of the East Asian countries. The current account deficit of some of these countries had exceeded 5 per cent of the GDP in most of the period when growth was rapid. Capital flows can take either the form of foreign direct investment or portfolio investment. For developing countries the preferred alternative is foreign direct investment. Portfolio investment does not directly lead to expansion of productive capacity. It may do so, however, at one step removed. Portfolio investment can be volatile particularly in times of loss of confidence. That is why countries want to put restrictions on portfolio investment. However, in an open system such restrictions cannot work easily.
The rapid development of the capital market has been one of the important features of the current process of globalization. While the growth in capital and foreign exchange markets have facilitated the transfer of resources across borders, the gross turnover in foreign exchange markets has been extremely large. It is estimated that the gross turnover is around $ 1.5 trillion per day worldwide (Frankel, 2000). This is of the order of hundred times greater than the volume of trade in goods and services. Currency trade has become an end in itself. The expansion in foreign exchange markets and capital markets is a necessary pre-requisite for international transfer of capital. However, the volatility in the foreign exchange market and the ease with which funds can be withdrawn from countries have created often times panic situations. The most recent example of this was the East Asian crisis. Contagion of financial crises is a worrying phenomenon. When one country faces a crisis, it affects others. It is not as if financial crises are solely caused by foreign exchange traders. What the financial markets tend to do is to exaggerate weaknesses. Herd instinct is not uncommon in financial markets. When an economy becomes more open to capital and financial flows, there is even greater compulsion to ensure that factors relating to macro-economic stability are not ignored. This is a lesson all developing countries have to learn from East Asian crisis. As one commentator aptly said “The trigger was sentiment, but vulnerability was due to fundamentals”.
Concerns and Fears
On the impact of globalization, there are two major concerns. These may be described as even fears. Under each major concern there are many related anxieties. The first major concern is that globalization leads to a more iniquitous distribution of income among countries and within countries. The second fear is that globalization leads to loss of national sovereignty and that countries are finding it increasingly difficult to follow independent domestic policies. These two issues have to be addressed both theoretically and empirically.
The argument that globalization leads to inequality is based on the premise that since globalization emphasizes efficiency, gains will accrue to countries which are favourably endowed with natural and human resources. Advanced countries have had a head start over the other countries by at least three centuries. The technological base of these countries is not only wide but highly sophisticated. While trade benefits all countries, greater gains accrue to the industrially advanced countries. This is the reason why even in the present trade agreements, a case has been built up for special and differential treatment in relation to developing countries. By and large, this treatment provides for longer transition periods in relation to adjustment. However, there are two changes with respect to international trade which may work to the advantage of the developing countries. First, for a variety of reasons, the industrially advanced countries are vacating certain areas of production. These can be filled in by developing countries. A good example of this is what the East Asian countries did in the 1970s and 1980s. Second, international trade is no longer determined by the distribution of natural resources. With the advent of information technology, the role of human resources has emerged as more important. Specialized human skills will become the determining factor in the coming decades. Productive activities are becoming “knowledge intensive” rather than “resource intensive”. While there is a divide between developing and the advanced countries even in this area – some people call it the digital divide – it is a gap which can be bridged. A globalized economy with increased specialization can lead to improved productivity and faster growth. What will be required is a balancing mechanism to ensure that the handicaps of the developing countries are overcome.
Apart from the possible iniquitous distribution of income among countries, it has also been argued that globalization leads to widening income gaps within the countries as well. This can happen both in the developed and developing economies. The argument is the same as was advanced in relation to iniquitous distribution among countries. Globalization may benefit even within a country those who have the skills and the technology. The higher growth rate achieved by an economy can be at the expense of declining incomes of people who may be rendered redundant. In this context, it has to be noted that while globalization may accelerate the process of technology substitution in developing economies, these countries even without globalization will face the problem associated with moving from lower to higher technology. If the growth rate of the economy accelerates sufficiently, then part of the resources can be diverted by the state to modernize and re-equip people who may be affected by the process of technology up gradation.
The second concern relates to the loss of autonomy in the pursuit of economic policies. In a highly integrated world economy, it is true that one country cannot pursue policies which are not in consonance with the worldwide trends. Capital and technology are fluid and they will move where the benefits are greater. As the nations come together whether it be in the political, social or economic arena, some sacrifice of sovereignty is inevitable. The constraints of a globalised economic system on the pursuit of domestic policies have to be recognised. However, it need not result in the abdication of domestic objectives.
Another fear associated with globalization is insecurity and volatility. When countries are inter-related strongly, a small spark can start a large conflagration. Panic and fear spread fast. The downside to globalization essentially emphasizes the need to create countervailing forces in the form of institutions and policies at the international level. Global governance cannot be pushed to the periphery, as integration gathers speed.
Empirical evidence on the impact of globalization on inequality is not very clear. The share in aggregate world exports and in world output of the developing countries has been increasing. In aggregate world exports, the share of developing countries increased from 20.6 per cent in 1988-90 to 29.9 per cent in 2000. Similarly the share in aggregate world output of developing countries has increased from 17.9 per cent in 1988-90 to 40.4 per cent in 2000. The growth rate of the developing countries both in terms of GDP and per capita GDP has been higher than those of the industrial countries. These growth rates have been in fact higher in the 1990s than in the 1980s. All these data do not indicate that the developing countries as a group have suffered in the process of globalization. In fact, there have been substantial gains. But within developing countries, Africa has not done well and some of the South Asian countries have done better only in the 1990s. While the growth rate in per capita income of the developing countries in the 1990s is nearly two times higher than that of industrialized countries, in absolute terms the gap in per capita income has widened. As for income distribution within the countries, it is difficult to judge whether globalization is the primary factor responsible for any deterioration in the distribution of income. We have had considerable controversies in our country on what happened to the poverty ratio in the second half of 1990s. Most analysts even for India would agree that the poverty ratio has declined in the 1990s. Differences may exist as to what rate at which this has fallen. Nevertheless, whether it is in India or any other country, it is very difficult to trace the changes in the distribution of income within the countries directly to globalization.
What should be India’s attitude in this environment of growing globalization? At the outset it must be mentioned that opting out of globalization is not a viable choice. There are at present 149 members in the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Some 25 countries are waiting to join the WTO. China has recently been admitted as a member. What is needed is to evolve an appropriate framework to wrest maximum benefits out of international trade and investment. This framework should include (a) making explicit the list of demands that India would like to make on the multilateral trade system, and (b) steps that India should take to realize the full potential from globalization.
Demands on the Trading System
Without being exhaustive, the demands of the developing countries on the multilateral trading system should include (1) establishing symmetry as between the movement of capital and natural persons, (2) delinking environmental standards and labour related considerations from trade negotiations, (3) zero tariffs in industrialized countries on labour intensive exports of developing countries, (4) adequate protection to genetic or biological material and traditional knowledge of developing countries, (5) prohibition of
unilateral trade action and extra territorial application of national laws and regulations, and (6) effective restraint on industrialized countries in initiating anti-dumping and countervailing action against exports from developing countries.
The purpose of the new trading system must be to ensure “free and fair” trade among countries. The emphasis so far has been on “free” rather than “fair” trade. It is in this context that the rich industrially advanced countries have an obligation. They have often indulged in “double speak”. While requiring developing countries to dismantle barriers and join the main stream of international trade, they have been raising significant tariff and non-tariff barriers on trade from developing countries. Very often, this has been the consequence of heavy lobbying in the advanced countries to protect ‘labour’. Although average tariffs in the United States, Canada, European Union and Japan – the so called Quad countries – range from only 4.3 per cent in Japan to 8.3 per cent in Canada, their tariff and trade barriers remain much higher on many products exported by developing countries. Major agricultural food products such as meat, sugar and dairy products attract tariff rates exceeding 100 per cent. Fruits and vegetables such as bananas are hit with a 180 per cent tariff by the European Union, once they exceed quotas. The tariffs collected by the US on $ 2 billion worth of imports from Bangladesh are higher than those imposed on imports worth $ 30 billion from France. In fact, these trade barriers impose a serious burden on the developing countries. It is important that if the rich countries want a trading system that is truly fair, they should come forward to reduce the trade barriers and subsidies that prevent the products of developing countries from reaching their markets. Otherwise the pleas of these countries for a competitive system will sound hollow.
To some extent, conflicts among countries on trade matters are endemic. Until recently, agriculture was a major bone of contention between U.S. and E.U. countries. Frictions are also bound to arise among developing countries as well. When import tariffs on edible oil were increased in India, the most severe protest came from Malaysia which was a major exporter of Palm Oil. Entrepreneurs in India complain of cheaper imports from China. In the export of rice, a major competitor of India is Thailand. If development is accepted as the major objective of trade as the Doha declaration proclaimed, it should be possible to work out a trading arrangement that is beneficial to all countries.
There have been protracted negotiations at WTO in reforming the trade system. Admittedly, the tariff and non-tariff barriers are coming down. However, there are apprehensions that the concerns of developing countries are not being addressed adequately. Looked at from this angle, the recent Hong Kong Ministerial is a modest success. Despite reservations, we must acknowledge that it is a step forward. Domestic support to agriculture by developed countries constitutes a major stumbling block to third world trade expansion. However, India’s stand in relation to agriculture has been `defensive’. We are not a major player in the world agricultural market. The impact of what has been accepted in relation to Non-Agricultural Market Access and services will vary from country to country. Despite some contrarian opinion, the gain to India from services can be significant. However, the Hong Kong Ministerial is only a broad statement of intentions. Much will depend upon how these ideas are translated into concrete actions.
Actions by India
The second set of measures that should form part of the action plan must relate to strengthening India’s position in international trade. India has many strengths, which several developing countries lack. In that sense, India is different and is in a stronger position to gain from international trade and investment. India’s rise to the top of the IT industry in the world is a reflection of the abundance of skilled manpower in our country. It is, therefore, in India’s interest to ensure that there is a greater freedom of movement of skilled manpower. At the same time, we should attempt to take all efforts to ensure that we continue to remain a frontline country in the area of skilled manpower. India can attract greater foreign investment, if we can accelerate our growth with stability. Stability, in this context, means reasonable balance on the fiscal and external accounts. We must maintain a competitive environment domestically so that we can take full advantage of wider market access. We must make good use of the extended time given to developing countries to dismantle trade barriers. Wherever legislations are required to protect sectors like agriculture, they need to be enacted quickly. In fact, we had taken a long time to pass the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act. We must also be active in ensuring that our firms make effective use of the new patent rights. South Korea has been able to file in recent years as many as 5000 patent applications in the United States whereas in 1986, the country filed only 162. China has also been very active in this area. We need a truly active agency in India to encourage Indian firms to file patent applications. In effect, we must build the complementary institutions necessary for maximizing the benefits from international trade and investment.
Changes in the foreign trade and foreign investment policies have altered the environment in which Indian industries have to operate. The path of transition is, no doubt, difficult. A greater integration of the Indian economy with the rest of the world is unavoidable. It is important that Indian industry be forward looking and get organized to compete with the rest of the world at levels of tariff comparable to those of other developing countries. Obviously, the Indian Government should be alert to ensure that Indian industries are not the victims of unfair trade practices. The safeguards available in the WTO agreement must be fully utilized to protect the interests of Indian industries.
Indian industry has a right to demand that the macro economic policy environment should be conducive to rapid economic growth. The configuration of policy decisions in the recent period has been attempting to do that. It is, however, time for Indian industrial units to recognize that the challenges of the new century demand greater action at the enterprise level. They have to learn to swim in the tempestuous waters of competition and away from the protected waters of the swimming pools. India is no longer a country producing goods and services for the domestic market alone. Indian firms are becoming and have to become global players. At the minimum, they must be able to meet global competition. The search for identifying new competitive advantages must begin earnestly. India’s ascendancy in Information Technology (IT) is only partly by design. However, it must be said to the credit of policy makers that once the potential in this area was discovered, the policy environment became strongly industry friendly.
Over a wide spectrum of activities, India’s advantage, actual and that which can be realized in a short span of time must be drawn up. Of course, in a number of cases, it will require building plants on a global scale. But, this need not necessarily be so in all cases. In fact the advent of IT is modifying the industrial structure. The revolution in telecommunications and IT is simultaneously creating a huge single market economy, while making the parts smaller and more powerful. What we need today is a road map for the Indian industry. It must delineate the path different industries must take to achieve productivity and efficiency levels comparable to the best in the world.
Globalization, in a fundamental sense, is not a new phenomenon. Its roots extend farther and deeper than the visible part of the plant. It is as old as history, starting with the great migrations of people across the great landmasses. Only recent developments in computer and communication technologies have accelerated the process of integration, with geographic distances becoming less of a factor. Is this ‘end of geography’ a boon or a bane? Borders have become porous and the sky is open. With modern technologies which do not recognize geography, it is not possible to hold back ideas either in the political, economic or cultural spheres. Each country must prepare itself to meet the new challenges so that it is not being bypassed by this huge wave of technological and institutional changes.
Nothing is an unmixed blessing. Globalization in its present form though spurred by far reaching technological changes is not a pure technological phenomenon. It has many dimensions including ideological. To deal with this phenomenon, we must understand the gains and losses, the benefits as well as dangers. To be forewarned, as the saying goes, is to be forearmed. But we should not throw the baby with bath water. We should also resist the temptation to blame globalization for all our failures. Most often, as the poet said, the fault is in ourselves.
Risks of an open economy are well known. We must not, nevertheless, miss the opportunities that the global system can offer. As an eminent critic put it, the world cannot marginalize India. But India, if it chooses, can marginalize itself. We must guard ourselves against this danger. More than many other developing countries, India is in a position to wrest significant gains from globalization. However, we must voice our concerns and in cooperation with other developing countries modify the international trading arrangements to take care of the special needs of such countries. At the same time, we must identify and strengthen our comparative advantages. It is this two-fold approach which will enable us to meet the challenges of globalization which may be the defining characteristic of the new millennium.
The key to India’s growth lies in improving productivity and efficiency. This has to permeate all walks of our life. Contrary to the general impression, the natural resources of our country are not large. India accounts for 16.7 per cent of world’s population whereas it has only 2.0 per cent of world’s land area. While China’s population is 30 per cent higher than that of India’s, it has a land area which is three times that of India. In fact, from the point of view of long-range sustainability, the need for greater efficiency in the management of natural resources like land, water and minerals has become urgent. In a capital-scarce economy like ours, efficient utilization of our capacity becomes even more critical. For all of these things to happen, we need well-trained and highly skilled people. In the world of today, competition in any field is competition in knowledge. That is why we need to build institutions of excellence. I am, therefore, happy that the Ahmedabad Management Association, besides other functions, is also focusing on excellence in education. Increased productivity flowing from improved skills is the real answer to globalisation.
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