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Economic reforms will go on: PM

rediff.com Moneydesk | September 25, 2003 04:26 IST

Expanding the role of market forces is an imperative of globalisation and will remain the central theme of India's reforms, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said on Wednesday.

Since reforms were launched just over a decade ago, the Indian economy has sustained an annual average growth of over 6 per cent, he said delivering a speech at Columbia University on 'India's Economic Outlook and Perspectives on International Development'. "This average actually masks much faster progress in the west and south of India, where the growth in the nineties was comparable to that of the Southeast and East Asian Tigers in their prime."

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He said India's foreign exchange reserves are nearly $90 billion and "fast moving towards the $100 billion mark".

However, the PM said these aggregate figures do not fully capture the quiet transformation that is taking place at the level of enterprises and individuals. "Indian enterprises are reaching global scales in quality and output. Corporations from all over the world are coming to India for manufacturing or services."

He said today, India has the confidence that the basic fundamentals of the Indian economy "are sounder than they have been for several decades".

"A young, better-educated, more confident and increasingly impatient Indian population is driving India's progress and demanding from government the conditions to fulfil its aspirations," he said.

The PM assured that India's resolve to continue with reforms has not weakened. "Our effort has consistently been to cushion the impact of reforms on the poorer sections of our society. We have tried to reconcile competing interests and to avoid sudden disruptions in our economy. We believe that reforms following a democratic consensus are enduring, as all constituencies are carried along with us."

The PM highlighted the achievements made by India in various fields, including the information technology sector and science and technology, and said, "We plan to send a spacecraft to moon in the next five years."

Vajpayee said the experience of coalition governments in India has been ideal for democratic governance. "India is a rare multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual democracy in the world. We have an open and vibrant press, free and fair elections and an independent judiciary. This imparts stability and consistency to economic policy-making."

The PM also made clear India's disappointment with the "lack of positive outcome on the Doha development agenda" at the World Trade Organisation Ministerial at Cancun, Mexico.

He said India had hoped that the "distortions caused by domestic support and export subsidy in developed countries could be corrected".

The march towards market access by the industrialised countries denies the necessary policy space for developing countries seeking to industrialise, Vajpayee said. "At the same time, the developing countries have been denied free access for their trained manpower to the developed economies."

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