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    Retired Staff
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    Mar 2009


    Default Stepping into an 'Indian decade' of growth and uplift

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    Supported by a foundation of robust growth, India Friday stepped into the next decade of this millennium seeking not just to fulfil the aspirations of its billion-plus citizens but also assume its role as an emerging economy the world today looks at with respect and admiration.

    The past year reinforced this hope and expectation when the Indian economy continued to register a relatively strong growth even as economies globally reeled under either a recession or a major slowdown -- described as the worst in eight decades.

    'The world is in panic mode again - and some economists think India will come to the rescue yet again,' said the Wall Street Journal, recalling the years since mid-1990s when the nation powered ahead despite a spate of crises elsewhere.

    'What will distinguish India in the decade that begins on Friday is its ability to now look inward, to clean its government, to uplift more of its population, to foster the businesses and innovations,' it said.

    'That might just clinch more than the next decade - it could well pave the way for an Indian century.'

    Every bit of statistics has its own larger story to tell about the country's progress during the last decade, with aberrations, if any, restricted to the past year -- when again, the performance was far better than many economies.

    Little wonder Prime Minister Manmohan Singh often quotes French thinker and litterateur Victor Hugo when he wants to reflect on how he views India's future: 'No power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come.'

    In fact, in his New Year message, the prime minister said: 'As we welcome the dawn of a new decade we should build upon the achievements of the past in striving for the realization of our dreams.'

    In the past decade, India's economic growth has accelerated to over nine percent, foreign exchange reserves top $280 billion, it is the largest recipient of inward remittances and 12-15 million new phone connections are added to the network each month.

    This apart, merchandise exports have risen four-fold to cross the $160-billion mark, foreign investment inflows amount to $20 billion annually and its IT industry caters to most of the Fortune 500 companies, earning $50 billion from exports.

    Likewise, the country's stock markets rank among the best performers, foreign funds have pumped $72.61 billion into the equities market and the corporate sector has made some global acquisitions where the size of the target company has been many times larger than the acquirer.

    'From 2010, India will enter a new orbit of swifter growth, global innovation,' said Manoj Kohli, chief executive and joint managing director of Bharti Airtel, which was among the companies that scripted India's amazing telecom story.

    But the road ahead is not without challenges - infrastructure remains rickety, poverty is a major scourge, literacy is yet to become universal, the healthcare system is wanting and a social security net ignores the larger sections of society.

    'Both the government and industry will need to collaborate more intensively to sustain 8-9 percent growth this decade to enable 300 million people, primarily in rural areas and below the poverty line, to truly reap the fruits of growth,' Kohli said.



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