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It may be India's turn

Satinder Bindra

By Satinder Bindra
CNN New Delhi Bureau Chief

December 14, 1999
Web posted at: 10:32 a.m. EST (1532 GMT)

This news analysis was written for CNN Interactive.

musings at the millennium

NEW DELHI (CNN) -- The well-being of 1 billion Indians in the new millennium may depend in part on two critical issues: whether India's new government lasts its full five-year term, and the pace at which it implements its economic reform package.

Most analysts I have talked with in recent months are confident India's re-elected Hindu nationalist prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, has the political skills to keep his diverse 20-party coalition together.

What's perhaps more debatable is how quickly the government can fulfill its pledge to provide the nearly 300 million Indians who live on less than $1 (U.S.) a day with better schools, roads, health care and drinking water.

Some analysts think it will be decades before any government can reduce the growing gap between India's rich and poor. Infrastructure like roads, ports and airports are poorly developed. Corruption in both the private and public sectors is widely acknowledged to be rampant, and government red tape is notorious for slowing down business.

But Vajpayee says he will cut government spending, privatize inefficient government industries and open up the telecommunications and insurance sectors to international investment.

Optimists here note India's economy is estimated by some experts to be growing at an annual rate of around 6 to 7 percent in 1999, inflation is low and the stock market continues its robust growth. Disposable incomes are slowly on the rise, and billions of dollars are being invested by high-tech companies to take advantage of India's growing army of computer programmers.

more musings

The consensus of opinion in India seems to be that the world cannot ignore the country's huge economic potential.

"The 1970s and '80s belonged to China. The first 10 years of the millennium will belong to India," says economist Surjit Bhalla.

In March 2000, economic issues are expected to dominate when U.S. President Bill Clinton visits India -- home to one in every six persons in the world.



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