ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Kerala : Outdated Image


Two distinguished visitors to Kerala in the past month, Amartya Sen, the Nobel laureate in economics, and Swaraj Paul, a leading NRI industrialist based in the UK, have commented on the economic performance of the state. Sen has never missed an opportunity to refer to Kerala's achievements in human development. At the same time, he has been urging Kerala to complement its success in human development with achievements in terms of higher income growth. In his response to a civic reception in Thiruvananthapuram, he has been reported as having said that "the state should make progress in the economic sector similar to that achieved in the cultural, social and educational fields". Swaraj Paul, addressing an 'Industry Leaders' Summit' organised by the industrial development agencies of the Kerala government, also in Thiruvananthapuram, is similarly reported to have on the one hand lauded Kerala's achievement in the matter of literacy and at the same time asked why the state's economic growth has been unimpressive.

It is clear that the two distinguished visitors to Kerala had not been briefed fully on the recent progress achieved by the state in economic growth. According to the estimates of the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO), supplied to the Eleventh Finance Commission, growth in Kerala's per capita state domestic product was the highest among all the states during the period 1987-88/1989-90 to 1994-95/1996-97. More recently, a member of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, again using the estimates of the CSO, noted that the rate of growth of per capita income in Kerala during the period 1991-92 to 1997-98 was 4.35 per cent per annum, distinctly higher than the all-states average of 4 per cent, and that Kerala ranked fifth in terms of the rate of growth of per capita income among the 14 major states. It is true, of course, that Gujarat recorded a growth rate of 7.57 per cent and Maharashtra of 6.13 per cent during the same period.

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