Leaders from every sector will gather in New Delhi on Wednesday for the World Economic Forum’s National Strategy Day on India. On the agenda? How to boost economic growth and social inclusion, nurture profitable agriculture, foster youth employability, ensure access to sustainable energy and financial services, and concoct smarter approaches to cities. Here are five things you need to know about the strategy day.
1). Bridging the skills gap
With one million Indians hitting the job market every month, India faces both an opportunity and a ticking timebomb. This vast pool of talent is demanding economic opportunities but also holds the key for innovation and problem-solving in unprecedented ways. The rapid pace of technological change and shift in business models call for a workforce that is agile and entrepreneurial. The World Economic Forum’s India Skills initiative aims to help bridge the business need for talent with the demand for employment by the nation’s over 487 million workers. Discussions will aim to invite concrete commitments from business players to invest in human capital for greater economic competitiveness.
2). Powering India with clean energy
India has set itself one of the most ambitious clean energy goals of any nation, with a plan to quadruple its renewable power to 175 gigawatts of clean energy by 2022, of which 100 gigawatts will come from solar energy. Coupled with this ambition is the positive news that the cost of clean energy technology and deployment is tumbling. However, despite these cost and policy drivers, the well-known challenges of scaling clean energy investment – a combination of technological, regulatory and investment/risk reduction bottlenecks – remain stubborn obstacles. The World Economic Forum is facilitating a multistakeholder Clean Energy Alliance with support and leadership from Piyush Goyal, Minister of State with Independent Charge for Power, Coal and New & Renewable Energy. The goal of the Alliance is to structure a process of public-private cooperation designed to put in place the infrastructure needed for clean energy more quickly; thereby helping to meet or exceed the government’s clean energy target, while also reducing the cost of implementation.
3). Reaping the potential of agriculture
Over half of India’s workforce is dependent on agriculture and related sectors, yet they contribute less than 14% to India’s GDP. The rural economy continues to lag behind, with widening income and lifestyle gaps between city and country. This trend naturally means greater migration to cities, with all that entails: social uprooting for millions of people, and a never ending cycle of abject poverty and unskilled labour for those left behind. It is more critical than ever to facilitate strategic investment in supply chain, technology and agri-based businesses to make the rural economy an engine of growth. Food processing currently enjoys less than 10% share of total production, while it is 30-50% for other comparable countries. The New Vision for Agriculture initiative in India has been working to improve productivity and efficiency to help Indian farms reap their full potential. Through a multistakeholder dialogue on November 4th, the initiative aims to take the lessons from Maharashtra into other states in India.
4). Making bank accounts for all a meaningful reality
It was a little over a year ago that the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the “Jan Dhan Yojana” initiative, promising a bank account for everyone. Since then, proving its worst critics wrong, the nation went on to open 10 million bank accounts in one day and continue its success. However, a huge opportunity exists in ensuring these bank accounts stay active. One relevant measure was to connecting subsidy transfers to bank accounts. We need more technology-driven solutions that bring low-cost, secure and easy-to-use options to citizens for everyday banking options. This and a lot more will be discussed on November 4th with India’s finance minister, Jayant Sinha, and the Forum’s multistakeholder community. Do share your thoughts and questions to help us find solutions universal and active financial inclusion in India.
5). Planning for the cities of the future
With urban population set to rise to 814 million by 2050, India faces a massive urban crisis if it does not address the problems of air pollution, heavy traffic and lack of water and sanitation. India’s “100 Smart Cities” plan is both an acknowledgement of this huge challenge and an appeal for public private partnerships to address urban infrastructure and services. Over the last year, the central government has put forth guidelines and a framework for the smart cities and also eligibility for government funds. Since a majority of funds need to come from the private sector and to be raised by the union states, it is time for the guidelines and framework to now evolve into local reforms. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Urban Development and Services initiative has been working closely with the Smart Cities initiative to bring global best practices and private sector strength to an informed dialogue on urbanization in India. Follow us on November 4th as we discuss the financing of infrastructure and urban development.
Send us your questions and comments for high-level ministers, business and civil society leaders via this page and they may be answered in our National Strategy Day on India.
Author: Akanksha Khatri, Senior Community Manager, India and South Asia, World Economic Forum