Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Getting your head round India

God bless those clever folk at The Economist and their knack for a nice, nerd-friendly graphic. And God bless the internet for enabling us to play around with said graphics as well as just reading them. Yup, it's nerd heaven. This particular graphic, though, is particularly nice - especially if, like me, you're still trying to comprehend the vastness of India.

Basically, it is a map of India's states, labelled according to the countries of the world that most closely approximate them in terms of population, GDP and GDP per capita. Some of the most dramatic figures I already knew: for instance, that the state of Uttar Pradesh alone, if an independent country, would be the world's fifth biggest in terms of population, just pipping Brazil. But this becomes even more startling when you see the sizeable countries stacked around it: Turkey (Madhya Pradesh), Mexico (Maharashtra), Thailand (Rajasthan) and the Philippines (Bihar), to name but four. Yup, there are a lot of people here.

Comparing the population map with the GDP one brings home India's relative poverty: even the biggest state economy, Maharashta, is equivalent only to Singapore, which has about a third of the population of Mumbai, Maharashtra's capital. And tiny Qatar (which admittedly is very, very rich) has as much economic output as the whole of Brazil-sized Uttar Pradesh.

What really drew my attention, though, was comparing this map with the equivalent one for China. India and China are often talked about in the same breath as the two most exciting emerging economies in today's world, but this really makes clear how far apart they are in terms of economic development. Whereas the GDP per capita labels for India feature the likes of Benin, Papua New Guinea and Sudan, China's provinces are compared to places like South Africa, Hungary and Mauritius - and even Qatar (though Macao is admittedly a special case).

Most telling of all, though, is that the bottom-ranked Chinese province, Guizhou, has a GDP per capita equivalent to - yup - India. That's a bit of a kick in the teeth.

Anyway, I had no great point to make here except that I think this is a terrific way of bringing home the scale of India's development challenge (and the potential rewards if it successfully tackles it). Of course there is a lot more to the country than a few numbers, but the numbers sure are important. Hope some of you appreciate the info as much as I did.

Oh, and on another note, my journey to literary greatness (ahem) has taken another step: I am now available on Kindle! Well, one story is anyway, in a great little anthology called One Eye Grey. It's a collection of creepy short stories set in London and it's only three pounds so if you have a Kindle please feel free to treat yourself!

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