Baroness Rawlings

19 Dec 2008 12:28:04

Peer of the day - Baroness Rawlings for a well-balanced speech on India

Baroness_rawlingsThe House of Lords had a debate on India yesterday.

Baroness Rawlings, Shadow Minister for International Development and Foreign Affairs, made an excellent, sophisticated speech:

"I would like to add to the words of sympathy from the rest of the House for the victims and their families of the appalling terrorist attacks between Wednesday 26 and Saturday 29 November. As the right honourable David Cameron said:

“My thoughts are with all those who have been caught up in these attacks. India and Britain stand together at this time in the face of terrorism”.

We could not, and should not, have a debate to call attention to the recent developments in India without placing great emphasis on the recent terrorist attacks. Yet it behoves us all to remember that, despite the recent news headlines, India, complex and diverse, is more than a country of poverty, caste and terrible terror attacks. It is also a hugely prosperous country, abounding in traditions, historical sites and so much culture. It naturally attracts tourists. In November, India undertook its first mission to the moon; on 12 November, Chandrayaan-1 entered lunar orbit and began sending back pictures of the moon’s surface.

As well as discussing those difficult and disturbing issues, let us also pay tribute to the impressive and wondrous. India is an important partner, especially in areas of trade, education and culture. We honour India’s democratic values and treasure her friendship.


I turn to the Indian economy. More than 400 million people in India live on less than $1.25 a day, which is more than in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. The development challenge is huge, but India is proof in point that the private sector can be the engine of development. Over the past two decades, it has had an annual average GDP growth of 5.7 per cent, and between 1981 and 2005 the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day declined from 60 per cent to 42 per cent. India is truly one of the world’s emerging powerhouses. However, India still has a long way to go. We must remember that India’s gross national income per capita is only $14 above the middle income status line. Moreover, while the proportion of poor has decreased, in real terms the number of people living at the $1.25 a day poverty line has increased from 420 million to 455 million."

Lady Rawlings is to be thoroughly commended for addressing the positive as well as the negative. We sometimes risk giving up all hope in a country or a continent. That's not the way forward.