This is the first in a series of entries that Alfred Romann will post from India in the coming weeks.
Take Beijing traffic, double it and cut the width of the streets by half. Then, add a few motorized peddicabs and random animals. Toss in a few potholes and take away all respect for rules and signs. That’s traffic in Delhi on a good day.
The city is chaotic, dirty and uncomfortable, except for the wealthy who can elevate themselves from the street level. Delhi also has a lot of energy. It is constantly moving – and moving fast.
Much of this growth is driven by a steady policy push to lower tariffs and facilitate access for foreign investors. This push has been steady for the last 16 years and will continue this week as the government introduces a new budget expected to lower taxes further and reduce tariffs even more. On paper, India is a great opportunity.
Take a step back, however, and the challenges are daunting. The traffic – and, ultimately, the infrastructure – that is bad in Delhi is worse in other places.
A drive into the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh highlights just how bad the infrastructure is and how much still has to be done to make trade with India and in India easy and convenient.
At the state border there are dozens of transport trucks waiting to cross. They have to stop to pay state taxes and wait until night. They are not allowed to cross during the day to ease the already incredibly heavy traffic.
Talk to anyone in government and they’ll be quick to mention that the country’s infrastructure is not what it could be – a euphemism for disaster. Still, India’s government is populated by highly educated and informed people aware of the challenges.
They are also aware that change here comes not from autocratic decisions – as is often the case in China – but from compromise between myriad parties and levels of government.
On Wednesday, the government will take another little step, presenting a budget that will then be debated by everyone involved and adjusted to satisfy all. The long term hope is that this approach, this incredibly complex balancing act, will continue driving India forward.