Young Indian population an asset in taking nation to greater heights: Manmohan Singh

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR - Describing people as India’s biggest asset, visiting Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, on Wednesday said at a time when the industrialised world is aging rapidly, India has the advantage of a young population.

Taking part in the Khazanah Global Lecture Series 2010 on “India’s Development Experience here, Dr. Singh said the dependency burden in India is expected to keep falling for another 20 years.

“It is expected that, in 2020, the average age of an Indian will be 29 years, compared to 37 for China and 48 for Japan. However, a young population is an asset only if it is educated, skilled and finds productive employment. If this were to happen, our objective of realizing India’s potential to grow at ten percent or more per annum for a substantial period of time can become a reality,” he added.

During the interaction, Dr. Singh reflected on some key features of the new phase in India’s economic development. He highlighted six key elements facilitating India’s drive towards development and economic well being.

First, India seeks rapid economic growth that will create wealth for its people and also generate surpluses to fund our ambitious social development programs.

Second, it would seek growth that creates employment and development that is socially and regionally balanced and inclusive.

Third, it would aim to build a modern, knowledge and science-based economy to complement the country’s agricultural and industrial base.

Fourth, India’s development could only be sustainable if natural resources are conserved for future generations.

Fifth, New Delhi is determined to seek a cooperative relationship with its neighbours and other partners so that it could prosper and benefit from another’s development.

And Sixth, India seeks to realize its development ambitions within the framework of a plural and secular democracy, where each citizen should have equal opportunity for economic, social and cultural advancement.

“Rapid economic development requires high rates of savings and investment. For a long time it used to be common wisdom that only an East Asian country could save and invest more than 30 percent of its national income. If that be true then, geography notwithstanding, India is today an East Asian country,” Dr. Singh said.

“India now saves and invests well over 30 percent of its GDP. In addition, our financial system - including the banking sector and the capital markets - is strong. This has helped support a boom in domestic investment. Domestic investment is complemented by strong Foreign Direct Investment flows which are greatly welcome,” he added.

He further said that India’s growth has combined greater openness with an ability to withstand external turbulence.

“We were not buffeted by the East Asian crisis in 1997 primarily because our capital account was not as open as in many other countries in East Asia and our banking system had very little exposure to short term debt, which was the main source of volatility in 1997,” the Prime Minister said.

He said India’s economic performance has shown improvement. The gross national income of India grew at over 9.5 percent per annum for three consecutive years starting in 2005.

“After the global crisis exploded in 2008, our growth rate slowed down but India was even then among the three or four fastest growing nations in the world. We took a number of measures to stimulate the economy and we expect 8.5 percent growth in the current year,” Dr. Singh said.

He said Malaysia, like India, has had a prolonged experience of colonial rule.

“Today, your country is a vibrant, fast-growing economy and a hub of regional integration. The Straits of Malacca today is the world’s busiest shipping corridor. I pay tribute to your leaders who have brought about this transformation since Malaysia’s independence,” the Prime Minister said.

He also said that India’s new entrepreneurs are truly the children of economic liberalisation and have been an important factor behind India’s fast growth in recent times.

“We have initiated a number of far-reaching programmes that have the potential to change the face of rural India and to make our growth more inclusive,” he said. (ANI)

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