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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 November 2005, 12:20 GMT
India set to lure more investors
Finance minister Palaniappan Chidambaram
Finance minister Palaniappan Chidambaram calls for competition
Business opportunities in India are in the spotlight at a conference in Delhi attended by business leaders and policy makers from around the world.

More than 400 companies from 33 countries are at the three-day event organised by the World Economic Forum.

India is one of the world's fastest growing economies, and is attracting increasing amounts of foreign funds.

The conference opens a day after its stock market reached the highest level, closing at 8,892, up 46% since April.

'Positive noise'

The US is one of the largest investors in India, and in total $8.5bn has been invested in Indian shares from around the world.

There has been rapid growth in manufacturing and business services, such as outsourcing, with large numbers of UK firms offshoring services such as call centre and legal work to India.

The event, called "A young and resurgent India: its impact on regional and global strategies", is designed to show what the country can offer outside investors.

"I have never heard such optimism, and such positive noise about growth and development in India," said Martin Sorrell, group chief executive of UK advertising giant WPP.

Equality concerns

A sharp rise in industrial exports and buoyant domestic demand have also driven growth, and the economy grew by 8.1% in the three months to June, ahead of the annual rate of 7% seen in recent years.

And finance minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said the economy must be more open to foreign competition to accelerate growth even more.

"The Indian economy should look to 8% and beyond," he said.

Those working at top firms have seen their salaries grow by a fifth since 2002.

Cost-cutting and increased productivity have driven the manufacturing sector, which grew at close to 10% in the first half of the current financial year.

Gay Davis of the World Economic Forum
The WEF's Gay Davis says growth must be matched by social help

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will also address the summit, which, as well as discussing the booming economy, will also look at those trapped in poverty who have not shared in the new wealth.

Roughly 40% of the country's population, or 400 million people, live on less than $1 a day.

Gay Davis, a WEF expert said the conference would examine ways of keeping economic growth at 8% annually while also benefiting all sectors of society.

Energy co-operation

Meanwhile, India has called for regional co-operation on energy across Asia - the largest producer and fastest-growing consumer of oil and gas.

Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar has proposed a study for forming an oil and gas grid for the continent, which would link producers in north and central Asia to consumer nations.

Fast-growing economies such as India and China are among the world's largest consumers of oil and gas, and their demand for energy has been one factor in rising prices this year.

India is exploring the possibility of bringing a natural gas pipeline from Iran through Pakistan to the western borders of India, and one from Burma through Bangladesh to the eastern borders of the country.

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