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August 6, 1998


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US will remain India's business partner, assures official

Economic sanctions imposed on India after the nuclear tests in May were not intended to hurt the country's industry and business but to send across a strong message to the Indian government, US Consul General in Bombay, Dr Franklin Huddle, said today.

Delivering the keynote address at a panel discussion, Present Business Environment and Vision for 2000, organised by the Indo- American Chamber of Commerce, Dr Huddle reiterated that the US will continue to remain India's largest business partner.

''Even after the nuclear tests, the Indo-US business relationship is riding high. Businessmen and industrialists will continue to forge higher in relationships, even as governments in both the countries will try to maintain good ties,'' he said.

On infrastructure, he said a ''tricky'' environment exists in the country and to make a headway in developing roads, power and ports, a ''firm'' regulatory framework was neccessary.

On information technology, Huddle said the Union government had drawn an ambitious gameplan for this sector. He hoped these initiatives would augment foreign investment in it to $ 15 billion from the present $ 2.4 billion.

Huddle said policy-makers in India were ''best'' at articulating and analysing problems, but failed to take concrete measures to address them. ''The next step should be to address the issues,'' he remarked.

Giving a sectoral distribution of American investments in India, Huddle said that 46 per cent was in manufacturing, 19 per cent in energy, 11 per cent in banking and 10 per cent in transport and communications.

Former chairman of Industrial Development Bank of India S H Khan dwelled on improving infrastructure in the country.

According to him, reforms of State Electricity Boards were the key to enhancing infrastructure to some extent. ''Losses accumulated by the state of electricity boards are to the tune of Rs 100 billion every year. The power sector requires an investment of Rs 200 billion to Rs 300 billion,'' he said, adding that very few state governments like Andhra Pradesh are committed to reforms.

''Others have neither taken initiatives nor done anything,'' he said. He felt the escrow mechanism was not working as anticipated as the escrow capacity of the SEBs was limited.


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