India has an unfinished agenda: Wolfowitz

By agencies   |   Monday, 22 August 2005, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz has pledged loans of $9 billion over the next three years to India, which has one of the world's highest economic growth rates but still is home to a quarter of the world's poor.

"India's success is important to the whole world. India inspires success in other parts of the world," Wolfowitz told a news conference Saturday at the end of a four-day visit.

"Though it's making rapid strides, India has an unfinished agenda," Wolfowitz said in a separate statement. "It is still home to a quarter of the world's poor people, most of whom reside in rural areas. Infrastructure constraints are an impediment to growth."

The bank's new lending of $3 billion each year for three years will help pay for roads, drinking water and irrigation facilities in tens of thousands of villages, the statement said.

Nearly 70 percent of India's more than 1 billion people live in more than 500,000 villages connected largely by dusty tracks, dependent on agriculture and forced to endure acute shortages of drinking water and electricity. Many cities have inadequate infrastructure that has not kept up with the rapid expansion of the economy.

Nuclear energy is one of the tools that India is seeking to propel faster economic growth. In July, the United States and India signed an agreement under which Washington is to share civilian nuclear technology and supply nuclear fuel.

However, Wolfowitz said the bank had not made up its mind on lending for such projects worldwide.

"If you are looking at reducing carbon emissions, then probably nuclear is the way to go, and I think it needs to be looked at, but nuclear brings its own environmental problems and I don't know whether we are ready to take that one on yet," he said.

Wolfowitz said India's booming economy -- growing at about 7 percent, one of the highest rates in the world -- was likely to do even better if the country continues its 15-year-old economic reforms.

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