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June 1, 2007


Economic growth, investments highlights of UPA government's 3 years, says PM

Robust economic growth and a high investment rate were the highpoints of the Indian economy during the past three years, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said in a 'Report to the People' released to mark the 3rd anniversary of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government on May 22.

The Prime Minister added that poor agricultural performance and high inflation were prime reasons for concern, but said the doubling of credit to the farm sector and hikes in the procurement price for wheat and rice had managed to shift the terms of trade in favour of agriculture.

"All reasonable measures will be adopted to accelerate the tempo of agricultural production and strengthen the public distribution system," Manmohan Singh said in the report released at a meeting of all UPA constituents.

"In this 60th year of our independence, the country should have the satisfaction of recording for the fifth year in succession a rate of economic growth of over 8.5 percent," the Prime Minister said. "The recent acceleration of growth to 9 percent has been made possible by an unprecedented increase in the rate of investment, which is at an all-time high of around 35 percent of national income," he added.

At the same time, he acknowledged that high national income growth alone does not address the challenge of employment promotion, poverty reduction and balanced regional development, nor does growth in itself improve human development.

"Taken together, all major initiatives of our government in agriculture, rural development, industry, urban development, infrastructure, services, education health care and every other facet of life are aimed at promoting inclusive growth."

The 66-page report card lists in detail the achievements of the government under a host of topics, ranging from social justice and governance to foreign policy.

Turning to some worries, Manmohan Singh said high economic growth had unleashed some pressures on prices, which was compounded by a shortfall in production of some commodities of mass consumption.

"We have been faced with galloping demand for many products and this resulted in inflation becoming a cause for concern particularly in the case of few essential commodities," he noted.


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EAM visits Cyprus, Libya, Germany and Belgium

External Affairs Minister (EAM) Pranab Mukherjee paid an official visit to the Republic of Cyprus from May 24 to 26. The visit to Cyprus follows the decision arrived at during the visit to India of the President of Cyprus in April 2006 to constitute a high-level Ministerial dialogue between the two countries to take the traditionally close and warm relationship between the two countries forward in the light of the changing global and regional situation and to better utilise each other's complementarities in trade and economic matters.

This was the first visit by an Indian External Affairs Minister in over two decades. Prime Minister Vajpayee had visited Cyprus in October 2002 and Minister of State for External Affairs Omar Abdullah had visited Cyprus in April 002.

Apart from a one-to-one and a delegation-level meeting with H.E. Mr. Yiorgos Lillikas, the Foreign Minister of Cyprus, EAM called on the President of Cyprus, H.E. Mr. Tassos Papadopoulos. Talks covered bilateral relations, and regional & multilateral issues of mutual interest.

EAM's visit to Libya was the most important visit from India and at the highest level in 22 years since the visit of late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Libya looks upon India as a reliable friend with potential to cooperate in an extensive manner in areas such as hydrocarbon, infrastructure, education and capacity building. Specifically, there is a distinct preference for higher education and cooperation in IT, with India.

The EAM led the Indian delegation for participation at the Foreign Ministers meeting of the ASEM in Hamburg, Germany, on May 28 and 29. The ASEM dialogue addressed political, economic and cultural issues, with the objective of strengthening the relationship between the two regions.

At the last ASEM Summit meeting held in Helsinki in September 2006, it was decided to admit six new members to the ASEM process -- four from Asia (India, Mongolia, Pakistan, ASEAN Secretariat) and two from Europe (Bulgaria, Romania).

EAM's participation is the first Ministerial participation in ASEM, after India's formal admission to the grouping.

The EAM held a round of bilateral discussions on the sidelines of the ASEM meeting. These meetings included those with his Chinese, Polish and Vietnamese counterparts.


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Rajiv Gandhi Scholarships

Imperial College London has launched five new Rajiv Gandhi scholarships, named after the former Prime Minister who was an alumnus. The Tanaka Business school at Imperial College has also set up the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for innovation and entrepre-neurship under a government-to-govern-ment scheme to promote transfer of educational expertise and knowledge between India and the U.K. The scholarships will each be worth 20,000 for the year's full-time MBA programme.



New students' work system

All students completing a degree or diploma for undergraduate or post-graduate programmes of any recognised institution in the U.K. are now allowed to stay back to work for up to a year. Under the new International Graduate Scheme, those completing their education on or after May 1 of the current year would be able to take advantage of the provision. Those who have not graduated yet but have their results can also apply under IGS.



Facilitation centre for NRIs

The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs has launched a facilitation centre, which will act as a "one-stop-shop" for addressing all the queries of the 25 million-strong Indian diaspora regarding opportunities available in the country.

The Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre (OIFC), through its website (www.oifc.in) and offices, will provide reliable data on investment opportunities free of cost besides facilitating clearance of projects on an individual basis as a paid value-added service. The centre would also offer advisory services to Non-resident Indians (NRIs) like consular issues, financial services and their stay in India.

"The centre will promote overseas Indian investment into India and facilitate business partnerships, by giving reliable information and also by providing paid handholding services to the potential investors," Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vyalar Ravi said.


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India's first trillionaire

Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani has won the rare distinction of being the only trillionaire in the country with over Rs. 1,000 billion of wealth in his companies' shareholdings.

Younger brother Anil is close behind with close to Rs. 900 billion of wealth in the stock market through his holdings in various group companies. Early this year, Mukesh Ambani was ranked 14th in the Forbes 2007 list of the world's billionaires.

Since splitting with younger brother Anil in 2005 and taking control of the $20 billion (revenues) flagship Reliance Industries Ltd., founded by his father Dhirubhai Ambani, Mukesh's fortune has soared by $11 billion.



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