I am labouring this point. Cities are already India's economic growth engine. In the years ahead, they are estimated to contribute 70% each of the national economic growth and all new jobs created. But rural India, where 65% of the population lives, takes up the major share of public spending and administrative energies. The graphic below summarizes India's public policy priorities.
This skewedness may be guilty of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. India needs to grow near the double digit rate so that its tax revenues and new jobs created grow fast enough to meet the massive and growing demand. Higher tax revenues would provide governments with the necessary resources to expand public investments, both in rural and urban areas. Faster pace of job creation would provide adequate opportunities to accommodate the rapid additions to the workforce. It would ensure that the danger of our demographic dividend turning sour is averted. And, as I have blogged earlier, transfers are a function of tax revenues. Higher the tax revenues, more the resources available to reduce poverty and mitigate any rise in inequality through effective redistribution policies.
Unfortunately, both state and district-level public policy and public spending (investments and welfare spending) are disproportionately focussed on rural India. Much more needs to be done for rural development. But a more effective strategy to achieve that objective would be to strengthen the urban growth and job creation engine and then utilize the resultant growth in tax revenues to promote effective rural development.