Indian minister praises close ties

P. Chidambaram, the finance minister of India, said in a talk Thursday that many have been too quick to blame loss of American jobs on outsourcing to India, and focused on what he called the positive economic connection between the United States and India.

Speaking at Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall on the topic of “U.S.-India Economic Relations” as a part of the Trumbull lecture program, Chidambaram emphasized the close ties between the two economies, ties he said he believes will prove beneficial to both nations. He also defended outsourcing and noted its benefits.

Chidambaram cited American companies’ outsourcing of jobs to India as a positive example of this interdependence. Although outsourcing has come under fire for giving Americans’ jobs to Indians, Chidambaram characterized this perception as “unfortunate.”

“Producing goods and services in India makes goods and services cheaper in the U.S.,” he said, adding that the outsourcing of jobs has lowered taxes in the United States.

Aside from his views on the economic relationship between India and the United States, Chidambaram devoted much of his speech to a discussion of India’s current economic condition, which he said is consistently improving.

“Many people underestimate how far India has come,” he said. “Perceptions built even five years ago can be quite out of date.”

He referred to India’s 25-year record economic growth rate, saying that such growth “has brought millions of people out of the depth of poverty to a better situation.”

Chidambaram concluded his speech by calling on Americans, Indians and people of all nationalities to reshape institutions like the United Nations and International Monetary Fund to better serve the world’s current economic realities.

The speech stirred some frustration in those who said they would have preferred Chidambaram to address India’s poverty problems more directly.

“As an Indian citizen as well as a global citizen, I think it’s necessary to be aware of the poverty,” Serena Retna ’07 said. “He made claims that the standard of living is measured by economic growth, but I think the standard of living must also be measured by the poor.”

TJ Ghose, a post doctorate fellow of epidemiology and public health at Yale, posed the issue of poverty directly to Chidambaram during a question and answer session that followed the speech.

“We see a different India,” said Ghose, who grew up in the slums of Calcutta. “The poor have gotten tremendously poorer.”

In response, Chidambaram said he rejected Ghose’s premise that the poor have become poorer but accepted the fact that the rich have become richer.

But Ghose told the News after the talk that Chidambaram gave the “standard governmental response.”

“This is an ongoing struggle within India,” Ghose said.

During the speech the finance minister veered away from economics to point out similarities between the cultures and ideals of the United States and India.

“We lived the multicultural society before the phrase was invented,” Chidambaram said of India. “India is the best functioning multicultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious society in the world.”

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