Economy of India: Wikis


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Economy of The Republic of India
India Money.jpg
Modern Indian notes
Currency 1 Indian Rupee (INR) (₨) = 100 Paise
Fiscal year 1 April — 31 March
Trade organizations WTO, SAFTA, G-20 and others
GDP $1.242 trillion (2009)[1] (nominal; 12th)
$3.528 trillion (2009)[1] (PPP; 4th)
GDP growth 6.7% (2008/2009)[2]
GDP per capita $1,032 (2009)[1] (nominal; 139th)
$2,932 (2009)[1] (PPP; 128th)
GDP by sector agriculture (17.5%), industry (20%), services (62.6%) (2009 est.)
Inflation (CPI) 9.89% (February 2010 est.)[3]
below poverty line
22% (2008)[4]
Gini index 36.8 (List of countries)
Labour force 467 million (2009 est.) (2nd)
Labour force
by occupation
agriculture (52%), industry (14%), services (34%) (2003)
Unemployment 9.5% (2009 est.)[5]
Main industries telecommunications, textiles, chemicals, food processing, steel, transportation equipment, cement, mining, petroleum, machinery, information technology
Exports $155 billion f.o.b (2009 est.)
Export goods software, petroleum products, textile goods, gems and jewelry, engineering goods, chemicals, leather manufactures
Main export partners US 12.3%, UAE 9.4%, China 9.3% (2008)
Imports $232.3 billion f.o.b (2009 est.)
Import goods crude oil, machinery, gems, fertilizer, chemicals
Main import partners China 11.1%, Saudi Arabia 7.5%, US 6.6%, UAE 5.1%, Iran 4.2%, Singapore 4.2%, Germany 4.2% (2008)
FDI stock $156.30 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
Gross external debt $232.5 billion (31 December 2009 est.)[6]
Public finances
Public debt $163.8 billion (2009)[7] 60.1% of GDP
Revenues $153.5 billion (2008 est.)
Expenses $223 billion (2009 est.)
Economic aid $1.724 billion (2005)[8]
Foreign reserves $287.37 billion (end-Dec 2009) (5th)
Main data source: CIA World Fact Book
All values, unless otherwise stated, are in US dollars
Throughout this article, the unqualified term "dollar" and the $ symbol refer to the US dollar.

The economy of India is the twelfth largest economy in the world by nominal value[9] and the fourth largest by purchasing power parity (PPP).[10] In the 1990s, following economic reform from the socialist-inspired economy of post-independence India, the country began to experience rapid economic growth, as markets opened for international competition and investment. In the 21st century, India is an emerging economic power with vast human and natural resources, and a huge knowledge base. Economists predict that by 2020,[11] India will be among the leading economies of the world.

India was under social democratic-based policies from 1947 to 1991. The economy was characterised by extensive regulation, protectionism, and public ownership, leading to pervasive corruption and slow growth.[12][13][14][15] Since 1991, continuing economic liberalisation has moved the economy towards a market-based system.[13][14] A revival of economic reforms and better economic policy in 2000s accelerated India's economic growth rate. By 2008, India had established itself as the world's second-fastest growing major economy.[16][17][18] However, the year 2009 saw a significant slowdown in India's official GDP growth rate to 6.1%[19] as well as the return of a large projected fiscal deficit of 10.3% of GDP which would be among the highest in the world.[20][21]

India's large service industry accounts for 62.6% of the country's GDP while the industrial and agricultural sector contribute 20% and 17.5% respectively. Agriculture is the predominant occupation in India, accounting for about 52% of employment. The service sector makes up a further 34%, and industrial sector around 14%.[22] The labor force totals half a billion workers. Major agricultural products include rice, wheat, oilseed, cotton, jute, tea, sugarcane, potatoes, cattle, water buffalo, sheep, goats, poultry and fish.[23] Major industries include telecommunications, textiles, chemicals, food processing, steel, transportation equipment, cement, mining, petroleum, machinery, information technology enabled services and software.[23]

India's per capita income (nominal) is $1032, ranked 139th in the world,[24] while its per capita (PPP) of US$2,932 is ranked 128th.[25][26] Previously a closed economy, India's trade has grown fast.[13] India currently accounts for 1.5% of World trade as of 2007 according to the WTO. According to the World Trade Statistics of the WTO in 2006, India's total merchandise trade (counting exports and imports) was valued at $294 billion in 2006 and India's services trade inclusive of export and import was $143 billion. Thus, India's global economic engagement in 2006 covering both merchandise and services trade was of the order of $437 billion, up by a record 72% from a level of $253 billion in 2004. India's trade has reached a still relatively moderate share 24% of GDP in 2006, up from 6% in 1985.[13]

Despite robust economic growth, India continues to face many major problems. The recent economic development has widened the economic inequality across the country.[27] Despite sustained high economic growth rate, approximately 80% of its population lives on less than $2 a day (PPP).[28] Even though the arrival of Green Revolution brought end to famines in India,[29] 40% of children under the age of three are underweight and a third of all men and women suffer from chronic energy deficiency.[30]



Silver coin minted during the reign of the Gupta king Kumara Gupta I (AD 414–55)
The spice trade between India and Europe was one of the main drivers of the world economy[31] and the main catalyst for the Age of Discovery.[32]

India's economic history can be broadly divided into three eras, beginning with the pre-colonial period lasting up to the 18th century. The advent of British colonisation started the colonial period in the early 19th century, which ended with independence in 1947. The third period stretches from independence in 1947 until now.



The citizens of the Indus Valley civilisation, a permanent settlement that flourished between 2800 BC and 1800 BC, practiced agriculture, domesticated animals, used uniform weights and measures, made tools and weapons, and traded with other cities. Evidence of well planned streets, a drainage system and water supply reveals their knowledge of urban planning, which included the world's first urban sanitation systems and the existence of a form of municipal government.[33]

The 1872 census revealed that 99.3% of the population of the region constituting present-day India resided in villages,[34] whose economies were largely isolated and self-sustaining, with agriculture the predominant occupation. This satisfied the food requirements of the village and provided raw materials for hand-based industries, such as textiles, food processing and crafts. Although many kingdoms and rulers issued coins, barter was prevalent. Villages paid a portion of their agricultural produce as revenue to the rulers, while its craftsmen received a part of the crops at harvest time for their services.[35]

Religion, especially Hinduism, and the caste and the joint family systems, played an influential role in shaping economic activities.[36] The caste system functioned much like medieval European guilds, ensuring the division of labour, providing for the training of apprentices and, in some cases, allowing manufacturers to achieve narrow specialization. For instance, in certain regions, producing each variety of cloth was the specialty of a particular sub-caste.

Estimates of the per capita income of India (1857–1900) as per 1948–49 prices.[37]

Textiles such as muslin, Calicos, shawls, and agricultural products such as pepper, cinnamon, opium and indigo were exported to Europe, the Middle East and South East Asia in return for gold and silver.[38]

Assessment of India's pre-colonial economy is mostly qualitative, owing to the lack of quantitative information. One estimate puts the revenue of Akbar's Mughal Empire in 1600 at £17.5 million, in contrast with the total revenue of Great Britain in 1800, which totalled £16 million.[39] India, by the time of the arrival of the British, was a largely traditional agrarian economy with a dominant subsistence sector dependent on primitive technology. It existed alongside a competitively developed network of commerce, manufacturing and credit. After the decline of the Mughals, western, central and parts of south and north India were integrated and administered by the Maratha Empire. The Maratha Empire's budget in 1740s, at its peak, was Rs. 100 million. After the loss at Panipat, the Maratha Empire disintegrated into confederate states of Gwalior, Baroda, Indore, Jhansi, Nagpur, Pune and Kolhapur. Gwalior state had a budget of Rs. 30M. However, at this time, British East India company entered the Indian political theatre. Until 1857, when India was firmly under the British crown, the country remained in a state of political instability due to internecine wars and conflicts.[40]


An aerial view of Calcutta Port taken in 1945. Calcutta, which was the economic hub of British India, saw increased industrial activity during World War II.

Company rule in India brought a major change in the taxation environment from revenue taxes to property taxes, resulting in mass impoverishment and destitution of majority of farmers and led to numerous famines.[41] The economic policies of the British Raj effectively bankrupted India's large handicrafts industry and caused a massive drain of India's resources.[42][43] Indian Nationalists employed the successful Swadeshi movement, as strategy to diminish British economic superiority by boycotting British products and the reviving the market for domestic-made products and production techniques. India had become a strong market for superior finished European goods. This was because of vast gains made by the Industrial revolution in Europe, the effects of which was deprived to Colonial India.

The Nationalists had hoped to revive the domestic industries that were badly effected by polices implemented by British Raj which had made them uncompetitive to British made goods.

An estimate by Cambridge University historian Angus Maddison reveals that "India's share of the world income fell from 22.6% in 1700, comparable to Europe's share of 23.3%, to a low of 3.8% in 1952".[44] It also created an institutional environment that, on paper, guaranteed property rights among the colonizers, encouraged free trade, and created a single currency with fixed exchange rates, standardized weights and measures, capital markets. It also established a well developed system of railways and telegraphs, a civil service that aimed to be free from political interference, a common-law and an adversarial legal system.[45] India's colonisation by the British coincided with major changes in the world economy—industrialisation, and significant growth in production and trade. However, at the end of colonial rule, India inherited an economy that was one of the poorest in the developing world,[46] with industrial development stalled, agriculture unable to feed a rapidly growing population, India had one of the world's lowest life expectancies, and low rates for literacy.

The impact of the British rule on India's economy is a controversial topic. Leaders of the Indian independence movement, and left-nationalist economic historians have blamed colonial rule for the dismal state of India's economy in its aftermath and that financial strength required for Industrial development in Europe was derived from the wealth taken from Colonies in Asia and Africa. At the same time right-wing historians have countered that India's low economic performance was due to various sectors being in a state of growth and decline due to changes brought in by colonialism and a world that was moving towards industrialization and economic integration.[47]

Independence to 1991

Compare India (orange) with South Korea (yellow). Both started from about the same income level in 1950. The graph shows GDP per capita of South Asian economies and South Korea as a percent of the American GDP per capita.

Indian economic policy after independence was influenced by the colonial experience (which was seen by Indian leaders as exploitative in nature) and by those leaders' exposure to Fabian socialism. Policy tended towards protectionism, with a strong emphasis on import substitution, industrialization, state intervention in labor and financial markets, a large public sector, business regulation, and central planning.[48] Five-Year Plans of India resembled central planning in the Soviet Union. Steel, mining, machine tools, water, telecommunications, insurance, and electrical plants, among other industries, were effectively nationalized in the mid-1950s.[49] Elaborate licences, regulations and the accompanying red tape, commonly referred to as Licence Raj, were required to set up business in India between 1947 and 1990.[50]

Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister, along with the statistician Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis, carried on by Indira Gandhi formulated and oversaw economic policy. They expected favorable outcomes from this strategy, because it involved both public and private sectors and was based on direct and indirect state intervention, rather than the more extreme Soviet-style central command system.[51] The policy of concentrating simultaneously on capital- and technology-intensive heavy industry and subsidizing manual, low-skill cottage industries was criticized by economist Milton Friedman, who thought it would waste capital and labour, and retard the development of small manufacturers.[52] The rate from 1947–80 was derisively referred to as the Hindu rate of growth, because of the unfavourable comparison with growth rates in other Asian countries, especially the "East Asian Tigers".[45]

The Rockefeller Foundation's research in high-yielding varieties of seeds, their introduction after 1965 and the increased use of fertilizers and irrigation are known collectively as the Green Revolution in India, which provided the increase in production needed to make India self-sufficient in food grains, thus improving agriculture in India. Famine in India, once accepted as inevitable, has not returned since the end of colonial.

Since 1991

Major improvements in educational standards across India has helped its economic rise. Shown here is the Indian School of Business at Hyderabad, ranked number 15 in global MBA rankings by the Financial Times of London in 2009.[53]

In the late 80s, the government led by Rajiv Gandhi eased restrictions on capacity expansion for incumbents, removed price controls and reduced corporate taxes. While this increased the rate of growth, it also led to high fiscal deficits and a worsening current account. The collapse of the Soviet Union, which was India's major trading partner, and the first Gulf War, which caused a spike in oil prices, caused a major balance-of-payments crisis for India, which found itself facing the prospect of defaulting on its loans.[54] India asked for a $1.8 billion bailout loan from IMF, which in return demanded reforms.[55]

In response, Prime Minister Narasimha Rao along with his finance minister Manmohan Singh initiated the economic liberalisation of 1991. The reforms did away with the Licence Raj (investment, industrial and import licensing) and ended many public monopolies, allowing automatic approval of foreign direct investment in many sectors.[56] Since then, the overall direction of liberalisation has remained the same, irrespective of the ruling party, although no party has tried to take on powerful lobbies such as the trade unions and farmers, or contentious issues such as reforming labour laws and reducing agricultural subsidies.[57] Since 1990 India has emerged as one of the fastest-growing economies in the developing world; during this period, the economy has grown constantly, but with a few major setbacks. This has been accompanied by increases in life expectancy, literacy rates and food security.

While the credit rating of India was hit by its nuclear tests in 1998, it has been raised to investment level in 2007 by S&P and Moody's.[58] In 2003, Goldman Sachs predicted that India's GDP in current prices will overtake France and Italy by 2020, Germany, UK and Russia by 2025 and Japan by 2035. By 2035, it was projected to be the third largest economy of the world, behind US and China.[59][60]. In 2009 India purchased 200 Tons of Gold for $6.7 Billion from IMF as a total role reversal from 1991.



Farmers work inside a rice field in Andhra Pradesh. India is the second largest producer of rice in the world after China[61] and Andhra Pradesh is the 2nd largest rice producing state in India and West Bengal being the largest rice producing state in India.[62]

India ranks second worldwide in farm output. Agriculture and allied sectors like forestry, logging and fishing accounted for 16.6% of the GDP in 2007, employed 60% of the total workforce[22] and despite a steady decline of its share in the GDP, is still the largest economic sector and plays a significant role in the overall socio-economic development of India. Yields per unit area of all crops have grown since 1950, due to the special emphasis placed on agriculture in the five-year plans and steady improvements in irrigation, technology, application of modern agricultural practices and provision of agricultural credit and subsidies since Green revolution in India. However, international comparisons reveal the average yield in India is generally 30% to 50% of the highest average yield in the world.[63]

India is the largest producer in the world of milk, cashew nuts, coconuts, tea, ginger, turmeric and black pepper.[64] It also has the world's largest cattle population: 193 million.[65] It is the second largest producer of wheat, rice, sugar, cotton, silk, peanuts and inland fish.[66] It is the third largest producer of tobacco.[66] India is the largest fruit producer, accounting for 10% of the world fruit production. It is the leading producer of bananas, sapotas and mangoes.[66]

India is the second largest producer and the largest consumer of silk in the world, with the majority of the 77 million kg (2005)[67] production taking place in Karnataka State, particularly in Mysore and the North Bangalore regions of Muddenahalli, Kanivenarayanapura, and Doddaballapura, the upcoming sites of a INR 700 million "Silk City".[68][69]

Industry and services

Development center of OFSS in Bangalore. India has Asia's largest outsourcing industry[70] and is the world's second most favorable outsourcing destination after the United States.[71]
India has one of the world's fastest growing automobile industries[72][73] Shown here is Tata Motors' Nano, world's least expensive car in production.[74]

Industry accounts for 54.6% of the GDP and employ 17% of the total workforce.[22] However, about one-third of the industrial labour force is engaged in simple household manufacturing only.[75] In absolute terms, India is 16th in the world in terms of nominal factory output.[76] India's small industry makes up 5% of carbon dioxide emissions in the world.

Economic reforms brought foreign competition, led to privatisation of certain public sector industries, opened up sectors hitherto reserved for the public sector and led to an expansion in the production of fast-moving consumer goods.[77] Post-liberalisation, the Indian private sector, which was usually run by oligopolies of old family firms and required political connections to prosper was faced with foreign competition, including the threat of cheaper Chinese imports. It has since handled the change by squeezing costs, revamping management, focusing on designing new products and relying on low labour costs and technology.[78]

Textile manufacturing is the second largest source for employment after agriculture and accounts for 26% of manufacturing output.[79] Tirupur has gained universal recognition as the leading source of hosiery, knitted garments, casual wear and sportswear.[80] Dharavi slum in Mumbai has gained fame for leather products. Tata Motors' Nano attempts to be the world's cheapest car.[74]

India is fifteenth in services output. It provides employment to 23% of work force, and it is growing fast, growth rate 7.5% in 1991–2000 up from 4.5% in 1951–80. It has the largest share in the GDP, accounting for 55% in 2007 up from 15% in 1950.[22]

Business services (information technology, information technology enabled services, business process outsourcing) are among the fastest growing sectors contributing to one third of the total output of services in 2000. The growth in the IT sector is attributed to increased specialization, and an availability of a large pool of low cost, but highly skilled, educated and fluent English-speaking workers, on the supply side, matched on the demand side by an increased demand from foreign consumers interested in India's service exports, or those looking to outsource their operations. The share of India's IT industry to the country's GDP increased from 4.8 % in 2005-06 to 7% in 2008.[81][82] In 2009, seven Indian firms were listed among the top 15 technology outsourcing companies in the world.[83] In March 2009, annual revenues from outsourcing operations in India amounted to US$60 billion and this is expected to increase to US$225 billion by 2020.[84]

Organized retail such supermarkets accounts for 24% of the market as of 2008.[85] Regulations prevent most foreign investment in retailing. Moreover, over thirty regulations such as "signboard licences" and "anti-hoarding measures" may have to be complied before a store can open doors. There are taxes for moving goods to states, from states, and even within states.[85]

Tourism in India is relatively undeveloped, but growing at double digits. Some hospitals woo medical tourism.[86]

Banking and finance

Structure of the organised banking sector in India. Number of banks are in brackets.[87]

The Indian money market is classified into: the organised sector (comprising private, public and foreign owned commercial banks and cooperative banks, together known as scheduled banks); and the unorganised sector (comprising individual or family owned indigenous bankers or money lenders and non-banking financial companies (NBFCs)). The unorganised sector and microcredit are still preferred over traditional banks in rural and sub-urban areas, especially for non-productive purposes, like ceremonies and short duration loans.[88]

Mumbai is the financial and commercial capital of India. Shown here is the World Trade Center of Mumbai

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi nationalised 14 banks in 1969, followed by six others in 1980, and made it mandatory for banks to provide 40% of their net credit to priority sectors like agriculture, small-scale industry, retail trade, small businesses, etc. to ensure that the banks fulfill their social and developmental goals. Since then, the number of bank branches has increased from 10,120 in 1969 to 98,910 in 2003 and the population covered by a branch decreased from 63,800 to 15,000 during the same period. The total deposits increased 32.6 times between 1971 to 1991 compared to 7 times between 1951 to 1971. Despite an increase of rural branches, from 1,860 or 22% of the total number of branches in 1969 to 32,270 or 48%, only 32,270 out of 5 lakh (500,000) villages are covered by a scheduled bank.[89][90]

The public sector banks hold over 75% of total assets of the banking industry, with the private and foreign banks holding 18.2% and 6.5% respectively.[91] Since liberalisation, the government has approved significant banking reforms. While some of these relate to nationalised banks (like encouraging mergers, reducing government interference and increasing profitability and competitiveness), other reforms have opened up the banking and insurance sectors to private and foreign players.[22][92]

More than half of personal savings are invested in physical assets such as land, houses, cattle, and gold.[93]

Natural resources

India has the world's fifth largest wind power industry, with an installed wind power capacity of 9,587 MW. Shown here is a wind farm in Muppandal, Tamil Nadu.

India's total cultivable area is 1,269,219 km² (56.78% of total land area), which is decreasing due to constant pressure from an ever growing population and increased urbanisation. India has a total water surface area of 314,400 km² and receives an average annual rainfall of 1,100 mm. Irrigation accounts for 92% of the water utilisation, and comprised 380 km² in 1974, and is expected to rise to 1,050 km² by 2025, with the balance accounted for by industrial and domestic consumers. India's inland water resources comprising rivers, canals, ponds and lakes and marine resources comprising the east and west coasts of the Indian ocean and other gulfs and bays provide employment to nearly 6 million people in the fisheries sector. In 2008, India had the world's third largest fishing industry.[94]

India's major mineral resources include coal, iron, manganese, mica, bauxite, titanium, chromite, limestone and thorium. India meets most of its domestic energy demand through its 92 billion tonnes of coal reserves (about 10% of world's coal reserves).[95]

India's huge thorium reserves — about 25% of world's reserves — is expected to fuel the country's ambitious nuclear energy program in the long-run. India's dwindling uranium reserves stagnated the growth of nuclear energy in the country for many years.[96] However, the Indo-US nuclear deal has paved the way for India to import uranium from other countries.[97] India is also believed to be rich in certain renewable sources of energy with significant future potential such as solar, wind and biofuels (jatropha, sugarcane).

Petroleum and Natural gas

ONGC platform at Bombay High in the Arabian Sea. As of 2010, India is the world's fifth largest consumer of oil.[98]

India's oil reserves, found in Bombay High, parts of Gujarat, Rajasthan and eastern Assam, meet 25% of the country's domestic oil demand.[22][99] India's total proven oil reserves stand at 11 billion barrels,[100] of which Bombay High is believed to hold 6.1 billion barrels[101] and Mangala Area in Rajasthan an additional 3.6 billion barrels.[102]

In 2009, India imported 2.56 million barrels of oil per day, making it one of largest buyers of crude oil in the world.[103] The petroleum industry in India mostly consists of public sector companies such as Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) and Indian Petrochemicals Corporation Limited (IPCL). There are some major private Indian companies in oil sector such as Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) which operates the world's largest oil refining complex.[104]


India has a self reliant Pharmaceuticals industry. The majority of its medical consumables are produced domestically. Pharmaceutical Industry in India is dotted with companies like Ranbaxy Laboratories, Dr. Reddy's Laboratories, Cipla which have created a niche for themselves at world level.

Today, India is an exporter of countries like United States and Russia. In terms of the global market, India currently holds a modest 1-2% share, but it has been growing at approximately 10% per year. Indian Pharmaceutical Industry is often compared to Pharmaceutical Industry in the USA.

External trade and investment

Global trade relations

In March 2008, India's annual imports and exports stood at US$236 and US$155.5 billion respectively.[105] Shown here is the cargo of a container ship being unloaded at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port, Navi Mumbai.

India's economy is mostly dependent on its large internal market with external trade accounting for just 20% of the country's GDP.[106] In 2008, India accounted for 1.45% of global merchandise trade and 2.8% of global commercial services export.[107] Until the liberalization of 1991, India was largely and intentionally isolated from the world markets, to protect its economy and to achieve self-reliance. Foreign trade was subject to import tariffs, export taxes and quantitative restrictions, while foreign direct investment (FDI) was restricted by upper-limit equity participation, restrictions on technology transfer, export obligations and government approvals; these approvals were needed for nearly 60% of new FDI in the industrial sector. The restrictions ensured that FDI averaged only around US$200 million annually between 1985 and 1991; a large percentage of the capital flows consisted of foreign aid, commercial borrowing and deposits of non-resident Indians.[108] India's exports were stagnant for the first 15 years after independence, due to the predominance of tea, jute and cotton manufactures, demand for which was generally inelastic. Imports in the same period consisted predominantly of machinery, equipment and raw materials, due to nascent industrialization.

Since liberalization, the value of India's international trade has become more broad-based and has risen to Rs. 63,080,109 crores in 2003–04 from Rs.1,250 crores in 1950–51. India's major trading partners are China, the US, the UAE, the UK, Japan and the EU.[109] The exports during April 2007 were $12.31 billion up by 16% and import were $17.68 billion with an increase of 18.06% over the previous year.[110] In 2006-07, major export commodities included engineering goods, petroleum products, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, gems and jewellery, textiles and garments, agricultural products, iron ore and other minerals. Major import commodities included crude oil and related products, machinery, electronic goods, gold and silver.[111]

India is a founding-member of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) since 1947 and its successor, the WTO. While participating actively in its general council meetings, India has been crucial in voicing the concerns of the developing world. For instance, India has continued its opposition to the inclusion of such matters as labour and environment issues and other non-tariff barriers into the WTO policies.[112]

Balance of payments

Cumulative Current Account Balance 1980-2008 based on the IMF data

Since independence, India's balance of payments on its current account has been negative. Since liberalisation in the 1990s (precipitated by a balance of payment crisis), India's exports have been consistently rising, covering 80.3% of its imports in 2002–03, up from 66.2% in 1990–91. India's growing oil import bill is seen as the main driver behind the large current account deficit.[113] In 2007-08, India imported 120.1 million tonnes of crude oil, more than 3/4th of the domestic demand, at a cost of $61.72 billion.[114]

Although India is still a net importer, since 1996–97 its overall balance of payments (i.e., including the capital account balance) has been positive, largely on account of increased foreign direct investment and deposits from non-resident Indians; until this time, the overall balance was only occasionally positive on account of external assistance and commercial borrowings. As a result, India's foreign currency reserves stood at $285 billion in 2008.

Due to the global late-2000s recession, both Indian exports and imports declined by 29.2% and 39.2% respectively in June 2009.[115] The steep decline was because countries hit hardest by the global recession, such as United States and members of the European Union, account for more than 60% of Indian exports.[116] However, since the decline in imports was much sharper compared to the decline in exports, India's trade deficit reduced to 252.5 billion rupee.[115]

India's reliance on external assistance and commercial borrowings has decreased since 1991–92, and since 2002–03, it has gradually been repaying these debts. Declining interest rates and reduced borrowings decreased India's debt service ratio to 4.5% in 2007.[117] In India, External Commercial Borrowings (ECBs) are being permitted by the Government for providing an additional source of funds to Indian corporates. The Ministry of Finance monitors and regulates these borrowings (ECBs) through ECB policy guidelines.[118]

Foreign direct investment in India

Share of top five investing countries in FDI inflows. (2000–2007)[119]
Rank Country Inflows
(Million USD)
Inflows (%)
1  Mauritius 85,178 44.24%[120]
2  United States 18,040 9.37%
3  United Kingdom 15,363 7.98%
4  Netherlands 11,177 5.81%
5  Singapore 9,742 5.06%

As the fourth-largest economy in the world in PPP terms, India is a preferred destination for foreign direct investments (FDI);[121] India has strengths in telecommunication, information technology and other significant areas such as auto components, chemicals, apparels, pharmaceuticals, and jewellery. Despite a surge in foreign investments, rigid FDI policies resulted in a significant hindrance. However, due to some positive economic reforms aimed at deregulating the economy and stimulating foreign investment, India has positioned itself as one of the front-runners of the rapidly growing Asia Pacific Region.[121] India has a large pool of skilled managerial and technical expertise. The size of the middle-class population stands at 300 million and represents a growing consumer market.[122]

The inordinately high investment from Mauritius is due to routing of international funds through the country given significant capital gains tax advantages; double taxation is avoided due to a tax treaty between India and Mauritius, and Mauriitus is a capital gains tax haven, effectively creating a zero-taxation FDI channel.

India's recently liberalized FDI policy (2005) allows up to a 100% FDI stake in ventures. Industrial policy reforms have substantially reduced industrial licensing requirements, removed restrictions on expansion and facilitated easy access to foreign technology and foreign direct investment FDI. The upward moving growth curve of the real-estate sector owes some credit to a booming economy and liberalized FDI regime. In March 2005, the government amended the rules to allow 100 per cent FDI in the construction business.[123] This automatic route has been permitted in townships, housing, built-up infrastructure and construction development projects including housing, commercial premises, hotels, resorts, hospitals, educational institutions, recreational facilities, and city- and regional-level infrastructure.

A number of changes were approved on the FDI policy to remove the caps in most sectors. Fields which require relaxation in FDI restrictions include civil aviation, construction development, industrial parks, petroleum and natural gas, commodity exchanges, credit-information services and mining. But this still leaves an unfinished agenda of permitting greater foreign investment in politically sensitive areas such as insurance and retailing. FDI inflows into India reached a record $19.5 billion in fiscal year 2006-07 (April-March), according to the government's Secretariat for Industrial Assistance. This was more than double the total of US$7.8bn in the previous fiscal year. The FDI inflow for 2007-08 has been reported as $24 billion[124] and for 2008-09, it is expected to be above $35 billion.[125] A critical factor in determining India's continued economic growth and realizing the potential to be an economic superpower is going to depend on how the government can create incentives for FDI flow across a large number of sectors in India.[126]


The RBI headquarters in Mumbai

The Indian rupee is the only legal tender accepted in India. The exchange rate as on 1 February 2010 is 46.18 INR the USD,[127] 64.03 to a EUR, and 73.82 to a GBP. The Indian rupee is accepted as legal tender in the neighboring Nepal and Bhutan, both of which peg their currency to that of the Indian rupee. The rupee is divided into 100 paise. The highest-denomination banknote is the 1,000 rupee note; the lowest-denomination coin in circulation is the 25 paise coin (it earlier had 1, 2, 5, 10 and 20 paise coins which have been discontinued by the Reserve Bank of India).[128]

The Rupee hit a record low during early 2009 on account of global recession. However, due to a strong domestic market, India managed to bounce back sooner than the western countries. Since September 2009 there has been a constant appreciation in Rupee versus most Tier 1 currencies. On 11 January 2010 Rupee went as high as 45.50 to a United states dollar and on 10 January 2010 as high as Rupee 73.93 to a British Pound. A rising rupee also prompted Government of India to buy 200 tonnes of Gold from IMF.

The RBI, the country's central bank was established on 1 April 1935. It serves as the nation's monetary authority, regulator and supervisor of the financial system, manager of exchange control and as an issuer of currency. The RBI is governed by a central board, headed by a governor who is appointed by the Central government of India.

Income and consumption

Percentage of population living under the poverty line of $1 (PPP) a day, currently 356.35 rupees a month in rural areas (around $7.4 a month).

As of 2005:

  • 85.7% of the population lives on less than $2.50 (PPP) a day, down from 92.5% in 1981. This is much higher than the 80.5% in Sub-Saharan Africa.[129]
  • 75.6% of the population lives on less than $2 a day (PPP), which is around 20 rupees or $0.5 a day in nominal terms. It was down from 86.6%, but is still even more than the 73.0% in Sub-Saharan Africa.[129][130][131][132][133]
  • 24.3% of the population earned less than $1 (PPP, around $0.25 in nominal terms) a day in 2005, down from 42.1% in 1981.[129][134]
  • 41.6% of its population is living below the new international poverty line of $1.25 (PPP) per day, down from 59.8% in 1981.[129] The World Bank further estimates that a third of the global poor now reside in India.

Today, more people can afford a bicycle than ever before. Some 40% of Indian households owns a bicycle, with ownership rates ranging from around 30% to 70% at state level.[135] Housing is modest. According to Times of India, "a majority of Indians have per capita space equivalent to or less than a 10 feet x 10 feet room for their living, sleeping, cooking, washing and toilet needs." and "one in every three urban Indians lives in homes too cramped to exceed even the minimum requirements of a prison cell in the US."[136] The average is 103 sq ft (9.6 m2) per person in rural areas and 117 sq ft (10.9 m2) per person in urban areas.[136]

Around half of Indian children are malnourished. The proportion of underweight children is nearly double that of Sub-Saharan Africa.[30][137] However, India has not had famines since the Green Revolution in the early 1970s. While poverty in India has reduced significantly, official figures estimate that 27.5%[138] of Indians still lived below the national poverty line of $1 (PPP, around 10 rupees in nominal terms) a day in 2004-2005.[139] A 2007 report by the state-run National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) found that 65% of Indians, or 750 million people, lived on less than 20 rupees per day[140] with most working in "informal labour sector with no job or social security, living in abject poverty."[141]

Since the early 1950s, successive governments have implemented various schemes, under planning, to alleviate poverty, that have met with partial success. All these programmes have relied upon the strategies of the Food for work programme and National Rural Employment Programme of the 1980s, which attempted to use the unemployed to generate productive assets and build rural infrastructure.[142] In August 2005, the Indian parliament passed the Rural Employment Guarantee Bill, the largest programme of this type in terms of cost and coverage, which promises 100 days of minimum wage employment to every rural household in all the India's 600 districts. The question of whether economic reforms have reduced poverty or not has fuelled debates without generating any clear cut answers and has also put political pressure on further economic reforms, especially those involving the downsizing of labour and cutting agricultural subsidies.[143][144]


Agricultural and allied sectors accounted for about 60% of the total workforce in 2003 same as in 1993–94. While agriculture has faced stagnation in growth, services have seen a steady growth. Of the total workforce, 8% is in the organised sector, two-thirds of which are in the public sector. The NSSO survey estimated that in 1999–2000, 106 million, nearly 10% of the population were unemployed and the overall unemployment rate was 7.3%, with rural areas doing marginally better (7.2%) than urban areas (7.7%). India's labor force is growing by 2.5% annually, but employment only at 2.3% a year.[145]

Official unemployment exceeds 9%. Regulation and other obstacles have discouraged the emergence of formal businesses and jobs. Almost 30% of workers are casual workers who work only when they are able to get jobs and remain unpaid for the rest of the time.[145] Only 10% of the workforce is in regular employment.[145] India's labor regulations are heavy even by developing country standards and analysts have urged the government to abolish them.[13][146]

Unemployment in India is characterized by chronic underemployment or disguised unemployment. Government schemes that target eradication of both poverty and unemployment (which in recent decades has sent millions of poor and unskilled people into urban areas in search of livelihoods) attempt to solve the problem, by providing financial assistance for setting up businesses, skill honing, setting up public sector enterprises, reservations in governments, etc. The decreased role of the public sector after liberalization has further underlined the need for focusing on better education and has also put political pressure on further reforms.[142][147]

Child labor is a complex problem that is basically rooted in poverty. The Indian government is implementing the world's largest child labor elimination program, with primary education targeted for ~250 million. Numerous non-governmental and voluntary organizations are also involved. Special investigation cells have been set up in states to enforce existing laws banning employment of children (under 14) in hazardous industries. The allocation of the Government of India for the eradication of child labor was $10 million in 1995-96 and $16 million in 1996-97. The allocation for 2007 is $21 million.[148]

In 2006, remittances from Indian migrants overseas made up $27 billion or about 3% of India's GDP.[149]

Economic trends

India's 300 million strong middle-class population is growing at an annual rate of 5%.[150] Shown here is a residential area in the Mumbai metropolitan area.

In the revised 2007 figures, based on increased and sustaining growth, more inflows into foreign direct investment, Goldman Sachs predicts that "from 2007 to 2020, India’s GDP per capita in US$ terms will quadruple", and that the Indian economy will surpass the United States (in US$) by 2043.[15] In spite of the high growth rate, the report stated that India would continue to remain a low-income country for decades to come but could be a "motor for the world economy" if it fulfills its growth potential.[15] Goldman Sachs has outlined 10 things that it needs to do in order to achieve its potential and grow 40 times by 2050. These are

  1. improve governance
  2. raise educational achievement
  3. increase quality and quantity of universities
  4. control inflation
  5. introduce a credible fiscal policy
  6. liberalize financial markets
  7. increase trade with neighbours
  8. increase agricultural productivity
  9. improve infrastructure and
  10. improve environmental quality.[151]



An Indian farmer

Slow agricultural growth is a concern for policymakers as some two-thirds of India’s people depend on rural employment for a living. Current agricultural practices are neither economically nor environmentally sustainable and India's yields for many agricultural commodities are low. Poorly maintained irrigation systems and almost universal lack of good extension services are among the factors responsible. Farmers' access to markets is hampered by poor roads, rudimentary market infrastructure, and excessive regulation.

World Bank: "India Country Overview 2008"[152]

The low productivity in India is a result of the following factors:

  • According to "India: Priorities for Agriculture and Rural Development" by World Bank, India's large agricultural subsidies are hampering productivity-enhancing investment. Overregulation of agriculture has increased costs, price risks and uncertainty. Government interventions in labor, land, and credit markets are hurting the market. Infrastructure and services are inadequate.[153]
  • Illiteracy, slow progress in implementing land reforms and inadequate or inefficient finance and marketing services for farm produce.
  • The average size of land holdings is very small (less than 20,000 m²) and is subject to fragmentation, due to land ceiling acts and in some cases, family disputes. Such small holdings are often over-manned, resulting in disguised unemployment and low productivity of labour.
  • Adoption of modern agricultural practices and use of technology is inadequate, hampered by ignorance of such practices, high costs and impracticality in the case of small land holdings.
  • World Bank says that the allocation of water is inefficient, unsustainable and inequitable. The irrigation infrastructure is deteriorating.[153] Irrigation facilities are inadequate, as revealed by the fact that only 52.6% of the land was irrigated in 2003–04,[154] which result in farmers still being dependent on rainfall, specifically the Monsoon season. A good monsoon results in a robust growth for the economy as a whole, while a poor monsoon leads to a sluggish growth.[155] Farm credit is regulated by NABARD, which is the statutory apex agent for rural development in the subcontinent.

India has many farm insurance companies that insure wheat, fruit, rice and rubber farmers in the event of natural disasters or catastrophic crop failure, under the supervision of the Ministry of Agriculture. One notable company that provides all of these insurance policies is Agriculture Insurance Company of India and it alone insures almost 20 million farmers.

India's population is growing faster than its ability to produce rice and wheat.[29] The most important structural reform for self-sufficiency is the ITC Limited plan to connect 20,000 villages to the Internet by 2013.[156] This will provide farmers with up to date crop prices for the first time, which should minimise losses incurred from neighbouring producers selling early and in turn facilitate investment in rural areas.


Overview of the index of perception of corruption, 2007

Corruption has been one of the pervasive problems affecting India. The economic reforms of 1991 reduced the red tape, bureaucracy and the Licence Raj that had strangled private enterprise and was blamed by Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari for the corruption and inefficiencies. Yet, a 2005 study by Transparency International (TI) India found that more than half of those surveyed had firsthand experience of paying bribe or peddling influence to get a job done in a public office.[157]

The Right to Information Act (2005) and equivalent acts in the Indian states, that require government officials to furnish information requested by citizens or face punitive action, computerisation of services and various central and state government acts that established vigilance commissions have considerably reduced corruption or at least have opened up avenues to redress grievances.[157] The 2009 report by Transparency International ranks India at 84th place and states that significant improvements were made by India in reducing corruption.[158][159]


The number of people employed in non-agricultural occupations in the public and private sectors. Totals are rounded. Private sector data relates to non-agriculture establishments with 10 or more employees.[142]

The current government has concluded that most spending fails to reach its intended recipients.[160] Lant Pritchett calls India's public sector "one of the world's top ten biggest problems — of the order of AIDS and climate change".[160] The Economist's article about Indian civil service (2008) says that Indian central government employs around 3 million people and states another 7 million, including "vast armies of paper-shuffling peons".[160] Million dollar bureaucracies can be run without a single computer in the management.[160]

At local level, administration can be worse. It is not unheard of that most state assembly seats are held by convicted criminals.[161] One study found out that 25% of public sector teachers and 40% of public sector medical workers could not be found at the workplace. India's absence rates are one of the worst in the world.[162][163][164][165]

The Reserve Bank of India has warned that India's public-debt to GDP ratio is over 70%.[166] The government of India is highly indebted and its former investment-grade status has deteriorated near junk status.[167] India's current public-debt to GDP ratio is 58.2% (US has 60.8%). [168][169]


India has made huge progress in terms of increasing primary education attendance rate and expanding literacy to approximately two thirds of the population.[170] The right to education at elementary level has been made one of the fundamental rights under the Eighty-Sixth Amendment of 2002.[171] However, education is still far behind developing countries such as China and continues to face challenges. Despite growing investment in education, 40% of the population is illiterate and only 15% of the students reach high school.[172] An optimistic estimate is that only one in five job-seekers in India has ever had any sort of vocational training.[173]


Rapid increases in exports has resulted in congestion on highways across India. Shown here is the Yashwantrao Chavan expressway in Maharashtra.

Development of infrastructure was completely in the hands of the public sector and was plagued by corruption, bureaucratic inefficiencies, urban-bias and an inability to scale investment.[174] India's low spending on power, construction, transportation, telecommunications and real estate, at $31 billion or 6% of GDP in 2002 had prevented India from sustaining higher growth rates. This has prompted the government to partially open up infrastructure to the private sector allowing foreign investment[142][175][176] which has helped in a sustained growth rate of close to 9% for the past six quarters.[177]

Some 600 million Indians have no mains electricity at all.[178] While 80% of Indian villages have at least an electricity line, just 44% of rural households have access to electricity.[179] According to a sample of 97,882 households in 2002, electricity was the main source of lighting for 53% of rural households compared to 36% in 1993.[180] Some half of the electricity is stolen, compared with 3% in China. The stolen electricity amounts to 1.5% of GDP.[179][181] Almost all of the electricity in India is produced by the public sector. Power outages are common.[178] Many buy their own power generators to ensure electricity supply. As of 2005 the electricity production was at 661.6 billion kWh with oil production standing at 785,000 bbl/day. In 2007, electricity demand exceeded supply by 15%.[178] Multi Commodity Exchange has tried to get a permit to offer electricity future markets.[182]

Indian Road Network is developing. Trucking goods from Gurgaon to the port in Mumbai can take up to 10 days.[183] India has the world's third largest road network.[184] Container traffic is growing at 15% a year.[185] Some 60% of India’s container traffic is handled by the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust in Mumbai. Internet use is rare; there were only 7.57 million broadband lines in India in November 2009, however it is still growing at slower rate and is expected to boom after the launch of 3G and wimax services.[186]

Most urban cities have good water supply water 24 hours a day, while some smaller cities face water shortages in summer season. A World Bank report says it is an institutional problem in water agencies, or "how the agency is embedded in the relationships between politics and the citizens who are the consumers."[187]

Labour laws

India’s labor regulations — among the most restrictive and complex in the world — have constrained the growth of the formal manufacturing sector where these laws have their widest application. Better designed labor regulations can attract more labor- intensive investment and create jobs for India’s unemployed millions and those trapped in poor quality jobs. Given the country’s momentum of growth, the window of opportunity must not be lost for improving the job prospects for the 80 million new entrants who are expected to join the work force over the next decade.

World Bank: India Country Overview 2008.[152]

India's restrictive labor regulations hamper the large-scale creation of formal industrial jobs.[13][173][188] A recent report highlights a growing labor unrest all over India which is hampering the industrial output.[189]

India ranked 133th on the Ease of Doing Business Index 2010, behind countries such as China (89th), Pakistan (85th), and Nigeria (125th).

Economic disparities

Lagging states need to bring more jobs to their people by creating an attractive investment destination. Reforming cumbersome regulatory procedures, improving rural connectivity, establishing law and order, creating a stable platform for natural resource investment that balances business interests with social concerns, and providing rural finance are important.

World Bank: India Country Overview 2008[152]

Slums next to high-rise commercial buildings in Kaloor, Kochi. Hundreds of people, mostly comprising migrant labourers who come to the city seeking job prospects, reside in such shabby areas.[190]

One of the critical problems facing India's economy is the sharp and growing regional variations among India's different states and territories in terms of per capita income, poverty, availability of infrastructure and socio-economic development.[191] Seven low-income states - Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh - are home to more than half of India's population.[192]

Between 1999 and 2008, the annualized growth rates for Maharashtra (9%)[193], Gujarat (8.8%), Haryana (8.7%), or Delhi (7.4%) were much higher than for Bihar (5.1%), Uttar Pradesh (4.4%), or Madhya Pradesh (3.5%).[194]

Poverty rates in rural Orissa (43%) and rural Bihar (40%) are some of the worst in the world.[187] On the other hand, rural Haryana (5.7%) and rural Punjab (2.4%) compare well with middle-income countries.[187]

The five-year plans have attempted to reduce regional disparities by encouraging industrial development in the interior regions, but industries still tend to concentrate around urban areas and port cities[195] After liberalization, the more advanced states are better placed to benefit from them, with infrastructure like well developed ports, urbanisation and an educated and skilled workforce which attract manufacturing and service sectors. The union and state governments of backward regions are trying to reduce the disparities by offering tax holidays, cheap land, etc., and focusing more on sectors like tourism, which although being geographically and historically determined, can become a source of growth and is faster to develop than other sectors.[196][197]

Environment and health

Calicut Medical College, Kerala

On Yale and Columbia's Environmental Performance Index, India's score is 21/100 on sanitation, compared with 67/100 for the region and 48/100 for the country income group.[198]

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  • Alamgir, Jalal (2008). India's Open-Economy Policy. Routledge. ISBN 9780415776844. 
  • Bharadwaj, Krishna (1991). "Regional differentiation in India". in Sathyamurthy, T.V. (ed.). Industry & agriculture in India since independence. Oxford University Press. pp. 189–199. ISBN 0195643941. 
  • Kumar, Dharma (Ed.) (1982). The Cambridge Economic History of India (Volume 2) c. 1757 - c. 1970. Penguin Books. 
  • Nehru, Jawaharlal (1946). Discovery of India. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-303103-1. 
  • Roy, Tirthankar (2000). The Economic History of India. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-565154-5. 
  • Sankaran, S (1994). Indian Economy: Problems, Policies and Development. Margham Publications. 
Government publications

External links

Government of India websites
Publications and statistics


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Quotes on economic activity and policies in and of India through the ages.


Economy through various periods

Colonial Economy

  • "The village communities are little republics, having nearly everything they want within themselves, and almost independent of any foreign relations. They seem to last where nothing else lasts. Dynasty after dynasty tumbles down; revolution succeeds to revolution; Hindoo, Patan, Mogul, Mahratta, Sik, English are all masters in turn; but the village communities remain the same... If a country remains for a series of years the scene of continued pillage and massacre, so that villages cannot be inhabited, the scattered villagers nevertheless return whenever the power of peaceable possession revives. A generation may pass away, but the succeeding generation will return. The sons will take the place of their fathers; the same site for the village, the same position for the houses, the same lands, will be occupied by the descendants of those who were driven out when the village was depopulated..."


  • "India's bane is the profesional 'povertywallas': the politicians who have incessantly mouthed slogans such as 'garibi hathao' … and the economists who write continually about 'abysmal poverty'. Both have generally espoused policies, such as defending public sector enterprises at any cost, discounting and even opposing liberal reforms, promoting white-elephant style projects that use capital-intensive techniques on unrealistic grounds such as that they would create profits and savings when in fact they have drained the economy through losses..."
  • The doctrine of controls and regulation on private enterprise led to: "a nightmare… [a]n untrained army of underpaid engineers… operating… without clear-cut criteria, vetted thousands of applications on an ad-hoc basis… months in… futile microreview…. again lost months reviewing the same data… interministerial licensing committee… equally ignorant of entrepreneurial realities… also operat[ing] upon ad hoc criteria in the absence of well-ordered priorities…. seek approval for the import of machinery from the capital goods licensing committee… foreign agreements committee… state financial institutions. The result was enormous delays… years… with staggering opportunities for corruption…"



  • “...The ease with which firms are able to enter into and exit from business activities is an important determinant of the investment climate. For business start-ups, a large number of clearances have to be taken both at the Central and State level. Such a system introduces delays and creates avenues for corruption. Studies show that with a heavy regulatory burden on business, India still ranks in the bottom quartile of comparable nations in the ease of doing business…. Indian labour laws, particularly Chapter VB of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, allow firms less latitude … Small-scale reservation has not succeeded in producing the expected results, and has constrained investment in some critical sectors, such as knitwear, with large growth potential. There is little justification for continuance of such reservations…. Easing the entry-exit barriers will be critical…”

Pro Views

  • "…in July 1991… with the announcement of sweeping liberalization by the minority government of P.V. Narasimha Rao… opened the economy… dismantled import controls, lowered customs duties, and devalued the currency… virtually abolished licensing controls on private investment, dropped tax rates, and broke public sector monopolies…. [W]e felt as though our second independence had arrived: we were going to be free from a rapacious and domineering state…"
    • By: Gurcharan Das
    • Source: Ibid

Dissenting Views

  • "We need not feel embarrassed to advocate economic nationalism...Our government functionaries also must not feel shy to work closely with business. Jointly they should ensure that India's economic interests are protected -- through trade, investment, and foreign policy measures.."



  • "It is almost a cliché to describe India as rich in institutional infrastructure and poor in physical infrastructure."
  • "Terminals at gateway airports like New Delhi and Bombay are shabby, crowded and chaotic. Nearly every aspect of airport services, from runway maintenance to air traffic control and baggage handing, needs huge upgrades to cope with the increased demand."


  • "When Robert McNamara was president of the World Bank, he visited Dharavi, near Mumbai airport, then, as now, one of the largest slums in the world. Looking at the abject poverty in the shantytown, he broke down, possibly realising the enormity of the task ahead."
  • "If we stop thinking of the poor as victims, or as a burden, and start recognising them as resilient and creative entrepreneurs and value-conscious consumers, a whole new world of opportunity will open up."
    • By: C K Prahalad
    • Source: The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits. ISBN 0131467506

Indian Economic thinking

Jawaharlal Nehru

  • "We have achieved political freedom but our revolution is not yet complete and is still in progress, for political freedom without the assurance of the right to live and to pursue happiness, which economic progress alone can bring, can never satisfy a people. Therefore, our immediate task is to raise the living standards of our people, to remove all that comes in the way of the economic growth of the nation. We have tackled the major problem of India, as it is today the major problem of Asia, the agrarian problem. Much that was feudal in our system of land tenure is being changed so that the fruits of cultivation should go to the tiller of the soil and that he may be secure in the possession of the land he cultivates. In a country of which agriculture is still the principal industry, this reform is essential not only for the well-being and contentment of the individual but also for the stability of society. One of the main causes of social instability in many parts of the world, more especially in Asia, is agrarian discontent due to the continuance of systems of land tenure which are completely out of place in the modern world. Another-and one which is also true of the greater part of Asia and Africa-is the low standard of living of the masses.

India is industrially more developed than many less fortunate countries and is reckoned as the seventh or eighth among the world's industrial nations. But this arithmetical distinction cannot conceal the poverty of the great majority of our people. To remove this poverty by greater production, more equitable distribution, better education and better health, is the paramount need and the most pressing task before us and we are determined to accomplish this task. We realize that self-help is the first condition of success for a nation, no less than for an individual. We are conscious that ours must be the primary effort and we shall seek succour from none to escape from any part of our own responsibility. But though our economic potential is great, its conversion into finished wealth will need much mechanical and technological aid. We shall, therefore, gladly welcome such aid and co-operation on terms that are of mutual benefit. We believe that this may well help in the solution of the larger problems that confront the world. But we do not seek any material advantage in exchange for any part of our hard-won freedom."

External Links

According to a reent book, there are four sources of today India’s Economic Thought (The Indian Economy, J.J. Boillot by Gyan Books New Delhi, january 2008) 1/ The Gandhian economic concepts were embodied in the plan formulated by Shriman Narayan and Acharya S. N. Agarwala in 1944. This plan contained a development strategy and a view of social organisation far removed from Nehru’s. Though these ideas may smack of economic romanticism, they had a profound influence on economic thinking during the decades following Independence with the birth of a significant movement of cooperative organisations and NGOs that are still alive and influential 2/ The first modern economic ideas made their appearance in 1938 with the setting up of a National Planning Committee under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru, one of the main figures of the Indian independence movement. Inspired by Fabian socialism during his long stay in Great Britain, Nehru also admired the success of the then prevalent Soviet model. India has been under his influence till the early1980s. 3/ Another trend situated to the far left of the Nehruvian ideology led to the birth of the Communist Party of India in 1925 (CPI). Although it supported the nationalist movement, the Communist Party had a strong identity based on Soviet orthodoxy before its split in 1964 leading to the creation of a pro-Chinese faction calling itself CPI (M). Today Bengal or Kerala States governement are strongly influenced by this mixed economy ideology. 4/ The last line of thinking appears deeply rooted in the caste system with the influential traders and money lenders big supporters today of the liberal ideology of Adam Smith laissez-faire. Over the years, the liberal economic ideology gradually assumed importance among the two main political parties that dominate national politics, the Congress and the BJP.

Simple English

The economy of India is the 11th largest in the world with a GDP (a year's goods and services) of $568 billion (U.S.). If you consider PPP (how much that money can buy in India compared to other countries), the economy is fourth largest (worth $3.319 trillion U.S.). The growth rate is 8.9% in Quarter 2 of 2010. However, that is still only $3100 (considering PPP) per person per year.

India's economy includes agriculture, handicrafts, industries, and a lot of services. Services are the main source of economic growth in India today, though two-thirds of Indian people earn their living directly or indirectly through agriculture. In recent times, due to its large number of well-educated people who can speak English, India sells a lot of computer programs to other countries.

For most of India's independent history, it had strict government controls in many areas such as telecommunications (communication over long distances), banking and foreign direct investment. Since the early 1990s, India has slowly opened up its markets by reducing government control on foreign trade and investment.

The social and economic problems India faces are the increasing population, poverty, lack of infrastructure (buildings, roads, etc.) and growing unemployment. Although poverty has gone down 10% since the 1980s, a quarter of India's citizens still cannot pay for enough food.


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