Iraq situation worrisome, says Singh
Monday, 23 December 2002, 08:00 Hrs
NEW DELHI: Finance Minister Jaswant Singh Friday expressed grave concern about the situation in the Middle East and its possible economic impact on India. "The statement by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell that Iraq is in material breach is worrisome," Singh told journalists here. Powell Friday charged Iraq of giving inaccurate details about its weapons of mass destruction. The concerns about a possible U.S.-led war against Iraq have pushed up the crude oil price to over $30 a barrel. With gold pushing past $350 an ounce (30 grams) and the dollar value slumping to a three year low, Singh said there was bound to be some impact on the Indian economy. India depends on imports for 70 percent of its crude oil requirements. "While India is pushing towards a new generation of reforms, there are some clouds on the international front," said Singh. But the minister maintained that India was well placed to tackle the situation with a comfortable foreign reserves position of $68 billion. "On the reserve front the position is so comfortable that we will not need to feel the vigour or even the pinch for two years (in the event of a war)," said Singh. On the national front, despite the worst drought in three decades, India has been able to manage the situation in such a way that there has been no impact on the price front. "This is because we have moved from a situation of economic shortage and want to an economy of growth and surplus." India was "ending the turn of 2002 with greater optimism and commitment", he said.