How wealthy is India?

The Economist did a really cool interactive map this week which is good for thinking about the aid to India debate.

One reason it chimed with me is that it compares Indian states to countries, something I’ve often thought about in terms of population. UP has around the same number of people as Brazil. The greater Delhi area has as many people as Chile. This is reflects what I’ve felt visiting India – many states and the biggest metros are so big they dwarf European countries.

But this map goes one further by comparing the states to nations in GDP and GDP per head. That’s when it gets really interesting. GDP wise plenty of states look like solid middle-income countries, and Maharashtra is as wealthy as Singapore, but GDP per head brings out a completely different picture. Huge swathes of northern India look like sub-Saharan Africa, and the poor bits too: Sudan, Benin, Eritrea. On this map Maharashtra is equivalent to Sri Lanka. The figures show better than any argument I’ve read why aid agencies continue to work in India, despite the existence of extremely wealthy people like Mukesh Ambani.

Of course there’s a positive spin too. With so much room for development in the Indian economy and a young, entrepreneurial population, the country should continue to grow strongly for a long time.

They did a similar map of China last year, which is interesting for comparison.

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