Thursday, January 13, 2011


Reliable data can only be the basis for any future planning and this is the Achille's Heel with most developing countries. Take for instance the situation in India where critical data and information are neither available nor accessible easily even if they exist. Such an environment is ideally suited for many consultants to proliferate and spin money in the name of "Reports". It is doubtful if these reports are worth the paper on which they are written. While there are a few multinational consultants who thrive in the country mainly on government grants for making such reports, there are also agencies, often managed by retired bureaucrats and others making money at the expense of the tax payer of this country. Contrast this with the fantastic range of statistics available freely on different facets of trade and industry, society, environment, economic status etc at both macro and micro levels in many developed countries. Here is a sample from the US.

"Among the relevant data in the report:

• "Individuals age 15 and over in the United States spent, on average, 1.22 hours per day engaged in eating and drinking activities."

• "Also in 2009, the average household in the United States spent $6,372 on food – which includes money spent on food at home and money spent on food away from home."

• 41 percent of that total was spent on food away from home.

• More than 2 million workers – 1.5 percent of civilian workers in the United States – are employed as cooks.

• 75 percent of those cooks are employed in eating and drinking establishments; 25 percent work in places including hospitals, schools and nursing homes.

• Fast food cooks earn the least nationwide, at an average hourly wage of $8.97; institutional cooks earn the most, at $12.44.

• Cooks in Honolulu earn the most, on average, at $14.72 per hour; cooks in the Morganton, N.C., area earn the least, at $7.49 per hour.

• Cooks in the Puget Sound area earn an average of $11.05 per hour, while bartenders earn $9.27 and wait staff earn $8.59".

Most despicable reality is that even on crucial area of food adulteration and food poisoning there is no worth while information in India conveying the impression that Indian consumers are "happy" with the safety of foods provided to them by the manufacturers, traders, retailers and caterers! Many activist organizations have brought out the fact that India is a major haven for food adulterators and fraudsters with a benign food safety "Authority" unable to do any thing due to the bureaucratic nature of the agency and grossly understaffed technical facilities and infrastructure. The country also does not have a clue regarding the need for trained food technologists and technicians, required by the industry as well as the service sector. It was amusing to read about a recent report from Kerala where there appears to be a dearth of skilled artisans in preparing Latcha Parotha, a favorite wheat preparation of the population there and the restaurants trying to woo experienced "cooks" by offering Rs 10000 per month! Indians have no idea about the diversity of eating habits amongst them selves because there are no reliable data generated based on field level surveys. Unless reliable and extensive macro and micro data are generated the country's planning will always be faulty and behind the time.


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