India PM invites world to invest in economy

NEW DELHI: India’s premier rolled out the welcome mat for foreign investors Sunday, promising to step up economic reforms to draw global funds and put the country on a high growth path.

Prime Minster Manmohan Singh, speaking to a blue-chip international economic summit, said policy would be guided by the desire to create ‘an investor friendly environment.’ India had attracted foreign direct investment of more than 120 billion dollars since 2001-02 but more was needed to develop its vast economy, he told a World Economic Forum meeting in New Delhi.

‘You are all welcome in our efforts,’ he told 600 delegates from around the world, adding that the government wanted to push through reforms to make the country more attractive for investment.

‘We need to strengthen our financial system in various ways to make sure it can provide what is needed for our development,’ he said, promising to open up insurance and other financial sectors more aggressively to generate funds.

Since winning a decisive re-election victory in May, the Congress-led government has been able to pursue reforms blocked in the last parliament by communist opposition.

He said the government was aiming for 6.5 per cent growth in this fiscal year to March 2010 despite the worst monsoon in nearly four decades that has hit agriculture, and he forecast ‘over seven per cent’ expansion next year.

‘I am happy India has been able to face the global economic downturn better than most other countries in the world,’ he said.

‘Our medium term objective is to achieve eight to nine per cent growth.’ Singh said ‘clearly the worst is behind’ the global economy but he added the path to sustained recovery ‘will be long and somewhat uncertain.’ This meant India would have to rely heavily on domestic demand to power its growth, he said.

Overhauling the country’s dilapidated infrastructure — roads, airports, ports and other services — would be key to keeping the economy on the recovery trail, he said.

He added it was vital to ensure growth was ‘inclusive’ and improved the lives of the estimated 40 per cent of the nearly 1.2 billion Indians who still live in extreme poverty.— AFP

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