Gaurav Sabnis reports on a deluge in Shanghai. Readers of my blog will know that I am not a fan of China. From that, they could conclude that I am not a fan of the Mumbai-Shanghai comparison either and they’d be right.
Why compare with others? I can think of two reasons. One is to set a “stretch target”. If someone else has achieved something you’d like to achieve, then keeping them in mind sets a pace for you. The other case is if someone else has faced the same problems as you are facing and has gotten over it, you can study them to find out what they did right. For the second reason, New York would be a good point to compare Mumbai with – it faced all the problems and carried all the historical baggage that Mumbai did and got over the problem with some effort.
But Shanghai in particular and China in general are horrible examples for Mumbai or India to emulate. The traditional Chinese response to problems is to hide them. If anyone remembers the SARS and bird flu epidemics, that is what they did in those cases. In Mumbai’s case, the relentless focus of the media and the activism of civic groups gives us a sporting chance of something getting done about the problems. In fact, Shanghai is a very good example of sweeping problems under the carpet. Entry into cities in China is restricted. Those who are salivating at the prospect of being able to do the same in India should please come back to reality. The object of economic development is not just to build nice looking infrastructure we can show to foreigners. It is to build nice-looking infrastructure that citizens actually use.