Asserting India's growing presence in the world economy, India's prime minister, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, spoke before an audience at Columbia's Alfred Lerner Hall late last month while visiting New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly.
"Today, India has the confidence that the basic fundamentals of the Indian economy are sounder than they have been for several decades," said Vajpayee. "A young, better educated, more confident Indian population is driving India's progress."
According to Vajpayee, India, which has sustained an annual average growth of over 6 percent in the last decade, is the world's largest producer of milk, and one of the most prominent suppliers of eggs, sugar and fish. He stated that the country has experienced extraordinary growth in the industries of information technology, computers, finance and biotechnology, and has undertaken an ambitious highway project to facilitate expansion.
"Indian enterprises are reaching global scales in quality and output," said Vajpayee. "Corporations from all over the world are coming to India for manufacturing or services. India is becoming a production base and an export hub for diverse goods, from agricultual products to automobile components to high-end services."
He also pointed to the 60 million Indians who have emerged from the ranks of poverty over the past six years as evidence of growth. Recently, India has been adding nearly 2 million mobile connections per month, and the country's data and voice carrying capacity has expanded 75,000 times from what it was four years ago.
"From roads to communication we are seeing the beginning of a qualitative change," said Vajpayee.
Debt management still remains one of the country's greatest obstacles, but according to Vajpayee, the country has arrested burgeoning deficits and is repaying foreign debt ahead of schedule. In recent years the country has undertaken several reforms to stem rising deficits, such as the introduction of a tax code and the passage of "fiscal responsibility" legislation that calls for the elimination of the deficit within five years. "It is a daunting task but we are hopeful of achieving it."
Vajpayee also noted that as a developing country, India is participating in a world market that puts developing countries at a disadvantage to industrialized nations. "The uneven spread of the benefits of globalization continues to accentuate disparities. The resources for development available to developing countries remain far short of the needs."
He closed his address reaffirming his country's desire to rectify the inequities of the international economic system.
"We firmly believe that in the inter-dependent world of today, it is no longer possible to sustain islands of development surrounded by underdevelopment and deprivation," said Vajpayee. "The world needs to recognize this and take corresponding measures."