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Indian economy has responded well to the reforms
Extract from Mr P. Chidambaram, Minister of Finance speech delivered at the the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs in Wellington on November 21, 2006

We are clear that our tryst with destiny is not over, and the journey will be long. Nearly 25 percent of Indians are below the poverty line and continue to be denied basic and minimum needs. There are women, men and children in our communities and countryside who lack safe drinking water, sanitation and electricity, and lead a life of meagre subsistence with little access to health care, education, markets and economic opportunities. Their aspirations are modest and few – reasonable wages, shelter, drinking water, sanitation, electricity, education, healthcare and connectivity. The Indian state cannot ignore their aspirations even while it integrates the Indian economy into the world economy. The challenge posed by poverty has to be squarely met. Growth is an imperative because, I believe, that growth is the best antidote to poverty.

To post growth on a sustained basis, we are taking on the challenge of developing our infrastructure like power, telecommunication, roads, railways, airports and seaports. Recognizing the need for improving physical infrastructure we are encouraging public-private partnerships on an ambitious scale. We would need about $320 billion over the next five years for investment in the infrastructure sectors alone. That is a big challenge, but I wish to point out that our challenge is your opportunity. Investors, world over, seem to have discovered that there is no other country in the world that offers such a huge opportunity for investment.

We look forward to the years ahead as years of growth and opportunity that will allow us to become a middle income country as well as an important driver of growth of the world’s economy. We are determined to seize this opportunity, in much the same way as New Zealand did some years ago. There will be some pain in the transition to the new economic order. Our priorities, however, are clear: reviving agriculture, augmenting infrastructure, investing in the development of human resources, acquiring competitive strengths in manufacturing and maintaining leadership in the services sector.

I now turn to an important development in the international sphere. The dynamics governing global economic expansion have shown a distinct tilt towards Asia. India believes that there is tremendous potential for creating synergies in the Asian and Oceania region to launch a sustained process of vigorous growth. It is with this belief that India began to effectively multiply its points of interface -- political and economic -- with ASEAN and other countries in the region.

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