Kapil Sibal, Yashwant Sinha address Pan Asia Conference at Stanford
June 6, 2006
The Stanford Center for International Development held its annual conference from 31 May to 3 June 2006 on the theme “Challenges of economic policy reform in Asia”. Indian participants included Minister for Science and Technology Kapil Sibal, Member Planning Commission Kirit Parikh, former Finance and External Affairs minister Yashwant Sinha, Deputy Governor RBI Rakesh Mohan, Member of Parliament Jay Panda, Punjab Finance Minister Surinder Singla, Hindu editor N Ravi, Director NCAER Suman Bery, Dy Chairman Bihar Planning Board NK Singh, and a delegation led by Bihar Chief Secretary GS Kang.
Prominent among other participants were former US Secretary of State George Shultz, IMF Deputy MD Anne Krueger, economists from Stanford (Ken Arrow), Columbia (Arvind Panagariya), and Yale (TN Srinivasan), business strategist CK Prahalad and venture capitalist Vinod Khosla.
Sessions were held on subjects such as federalism, business environment, trade and regional integration, industrial and agricultural productivity, technology and IPR, energy, environment, sustainable development, health, rural development, higher education, micro-finance, and demographic issues.
Minister Sibal delivered an assessment of the current state of the Indian economy and its prospects. He emphasized on enhanced public investment in social infrastructure areas like education to strengthen India’s human capital base. He lauded the progress of Indian industry in recent times, not only in the services sector but in manufacturing of auto components and pharmaceuticals. He said that the cost of drug development could be significantly reduced by utilizing India as a base for clinical research and trials. Sibal said Asia’s economic prospects were bright because of its demographic profile, vast and rich talent pool, low costs, and large domestic market. Capital and technology flows were bound to rise because of a steady improvement in the business environment which would reassure the investor of guaranteed returns. Simultaneously, quality of research and development needs to be improved by greater investment, laboratory-industry linkages, and a focus on quality basic education.
Member of Parliament Yashwant Sinha was one of the keynote speakers and spoke on the subject “Can India achieve double digit growth ?” Situating his talk in the realm of political economy, he said it was noteworthy that India had moved into a high growth trajectory of 8% after a long phase of low rates of growth. Double digit growth appeared to be in India’s grasp. A happy development in recent years was that manufacturing had begun contributing significantly to GDP, and industrial production was witnessing a sustained growth over the last few years. He spoke about his challenges as a finance minister and of his priorities of boosting demand, managing inflation, lowering interest rates, tax rationalisation etc., all of which contributed to accelerating growth rates. He ended on an optimistic note for the future with the observation that the Indian economy had many strengths that created their own momentum. He expressed confidence that despite internal hurdles and global factors such as rising oil prices, India’s human resource talent, its democracy, its vast middle class etc would ensure sustained and enhanced growth.