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India vs. China

When I was in China earlier this year, an official charged with attracting tech investment explained that India's democratic system led to underinvestment in infrastructure, while China's more centralized approach gave it the ability to move incredibly rapidly in creating whatever infrastructure would be best for the country's goals -- in this case, attracting foreign companies. Keep that in mind when you read this stat:

India spends 6.5 percent of its gross domestic product on infrastructure, vs. 11 percent in China.


On July 14 passengers on international flights to and from New Delhi will no longer walk through the overcrowded building that has been the capital's gateway to the world for 24 years. Instead, they will enter a terminal designed by London architects HOK International that is encased in sheets of glass etched with images of Indian dancers. With 78 gates, 97 automated walkways, 95 immigration counters, 215,000 square feet of retail space, and parking for 4,300 cars, the building is comparable to the modern aviation hubs of Hong Kong, Singapore, and Dubai. "For the first time, we will have a world-class hub," says Binit Somaia, Sydney-based director for South Asia at the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA).

The terminal, which with other renovations cost $2.2 billion, is a sign that India may be turning the corner on solving one of its most intractable problems: a notoriously poor infrastructure. The terminal took only 37 months to build. That's faster than the 45 months China spent to complete the terminal in Beijing that opened in time for the 2008 Olympics.

By Ezra Klein  |  July 6, 2010; 9:02 AM ET
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what percent of our gross domestic product do we spend on infrastructure?

i wish that LAX was encased in sheets of etched, sparkling glass.
and that we had brand-new fleets of high-speed trains at the gates at our union stations.
and new bridges that werent rusting into the rivers on the outskirts of our cities.

a girl can dream, cant she?

Posted by: jkaren | July 6, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

China's "more centralized system." Yes, tyranny moves faster in many ways though your assumption that its actions are based on what would be best for the country (and not the powers in the Party) is ridiculous. As was the passing along of that story about how dispossessed homeowners are even sent a birthday cake by the regime. I'm convinced Klein's Chinese hosts injected that little detail as one would a radioactive isotope in a body -- the place where it shows up again signals a weak spot, in this case, the most gullible of the gullible. Did anyone else on that trip pass along that particular story?? I doubt it.

Posted by: truck1 | July 6, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Dear makers of new New Delhi airport,

1. Put up signs showing which lines people from which countries are supposed to go in for immigration/customs. That way we don't wait 20 minutes in one line only to be told that we're in the wrong line.

2. Put up signs saying that you need to keep receipts from any water bought in the terminal if you want to take the water on the plane. Who keeps receipts for water?

Signage people. Westerners like signs.

Sorry. Still angry.

Posted by: ThomasEN | July 6, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Aren't most Chinese schools still unheated?

Posted by: tomtildrum | July 6, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

According to an editorial in todays WaPo, a Chinese lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, has once again disappeared into the Chinese communist party's "black prison", labor camp, or gulag system. What??? How can that be? Klein describes this regime as merely "centralized", dedicated, yes, dedicated, to providing whatever infrastructure would be good for the country. And they send birthday cakes to people whose confiscated property they have reimbursed to the tune of three or fourfold. Klein and the editorial page present two different, and incompatible, views of the Chinese communist party.

Posted by: truck1 | July 6, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

To ThomasEN: It's still India!

India only has an *this type* of an infrastructure problem if you look at it from the urban and foreign investment perspective. If you look at it from the point of view of human security, we could see that the real infrastructure problem is more mundane-- there are more cell phones in India than there are toilets. Where is the infrastructure investment in basic sanitary needs?

Posted by: ga73 | July 6, 2010 9:09 PM | Report abuse

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