India suffering doubles as economy weakens: poll

NEW DELHI - Suffering in India has more than doubled in recent years with one in every four Indians now bearing the brunt of the nation's sharply weaker economy, a global poll released Wednesday showed.

The increase in "suffering" in the nation of 1.2 billion people had a ripple effect across South Asia - which led the world in suffering - owing to India's strong economic ties with its neighbours, Gallup said in a statement.

"The significant deterioration in Indians' wellbeing is likely to be rooted in the country's disappointing economic performance," the US-based pollster worldwide said.

"Average suffering in India more than doubled between 2006 to 2008 and 2010 to 2012. In 2012, a full quarter of Indians were suffering."

Gallup classified respondents to the survey as "thriving," "struggling," or "suffering" according to how they rated their current lives and future prospects on a scale of zero to 10.

According to Gallup, suffering on average has increased worldwide in recent years. Fourteen per cent rated their lives poorly enough to be considered suffering in 2012, up from 11 per cent in 2006-08.

South Asia topped the regions for suffering, with the Balkans, Middle East and North Africa tied for second-place with 21 per cent.

"Suffering in the (South Asian) region has increased enormously since the beginning of the global financial crisis, averaging 12 per cent between 2006 and 2008, and 22 per cent between 2010 and 2012," Gallup said.

Australia and New Zealand were the countries considered most thriving, with just two per cent of their population seen as suffering.

India's economic growth sunk from 9.4 per cent in the first quarter of 2010 to 4.4 per cent in the second quarter of 2013, the worst quarterly rate since 2002.

Data on Friday is expected to show growth still below five per cent, despite efforts by the scandal-tainted Congress government to revive the economy before elections due by May.

The survey comes after a political row in India over how to accurately measure poverty, with the government issuing figures in August showing poverty has been slashed by a third since 2004.

The government said 138 million Indians had emerged from poverty between the fiscal years 2004/05 and 2011/12, leaving the official number of poor at 269 million.

The World Bank in a recent report said India has the greatest share of the world's poorest - one-third living on $1.25 a day (S$1.57) or less - or 400 million.

Gallup said its results were based on interviews with 230,083 adults in 2012 in 143 countries and that the poll's margin of error was less than one percentage point.