India's population is estimated at more than 1.1 billion and is growing at 1.55% a year. It has the world's 12th largest economy--and the third largest in Asia behind Japan and China--with total GDP in 2008 of around $1.21 trillion ($1,210 billion). Services, industry, and agriculture account for 54%, 29%, and 18% of GDP respectively. India is capitalizing on its large numbers of well-educated people skilled in the English language to become a major exporter of software services and software workers, but more than half of the population depends on agriculture for its livelihood. 700 million Indians live on $2 per day or less, but there is a large and growing middle class of more than 50 million Indians with disposable income ranging from 200,000 to 1,000,000 rupees per year ($4,166-$20,833). Estimates are that the middle class will grow ten-fold by 2025.
India continues to move forward, albeit haltingly, with market-oriented economic reforms that began in 1991. Reforms include increasingly liberal foreign investment and exchange regimes, industrial decontrol, reductions in tariffs and other trade barriers, opening and modernization of the financial sector, significant adjustments in government monetary and fiscal policies, and more safeguards for intellectual property rights.
The economy has posted an average growth rate of more than 7% in the decade since 1997, reducing poverty by about 10 percentage points. India achieved 9.6% GDP growth in 2006, 9.0% in 2007, and 6.6% in 2008, significantly expanding manufactures through late 2008. Growth for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2009 was initially expected to be between 8.5-9.0%, but has been revised downward by a number of economists to 7.0% or less because of the financial crisis and resulting global economic slowdown. Foreign portfolio and direct investment inflows have risen significantly in recent years. They contributed to $255 billion in foreign exchange reserves by June 2007. Government receipts from privatization were about $3 billion in fiscal year 2003-2004, but the privatization program has stalled since then.
Economic growth is constrained by inadequate infrastructure, a cumbersome bureaucracy, corruption, labor market rigidities, regulatory and foreign investment controls, the "reservation" of key products for small-scale industries, and high fiscal deficits. The outlook for further trade liberalization is mixed, and a key World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Ministerial in July 2008 was unsuccessful due to differences between the U.S. and India (as well as China) over market access. India eliminated quotas on 1,420 consumer imports in 2002 and has incrementally lowered non-agricultural customs duties in recent successive budgets. However, the tax structure is complex, with compounding effects of various taxes.
The United States is India's largest trading partner. Bilateral merchandise trade in 2008 topped nearly $50 billion. Principal U.S. exports are diagnostic or lab reagents, aircraft and parts, advanced machinery, cotton, fertilizers, ferrous waste/scrap metal, and computer hardware. Major U.S. imports from India include textiles and ready-made garments, Internet-enabled services, agricultural and related products, gems and jewelry, leather products, and chemicals.
The rapidly growing software sector is boosting service exports and modernizing India's economy. Software exports crossed $28 billion in FY 2006-2007, while business process outsourcing (BPO) revenues hit $8.3 billion in 2006-2007. Personal computer penetration is 14 per 1,000 persons. The number of cell phone users is expected to rise to nearly 300 million by 2010.
The United States is India's largest investment partner, with a 13% share. India's total inflow of U.S. direct investment was estimated at more than $16 billion through 2008. Proposals for direct foreign investment are considered by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board and generally receive government approval. Automatic approvals are available for investments involving up to 100% foreign equity, depending on the kind of industry. Foreign investment is particularly sought after in power generation, telecommunications, ports, roads, petroleum exploration/processing, and mining.
India's external debt was nearly $230 billion by the end of 2008, up from $126 billion in 2005-2006. Foreign assistance was approximately $3 billion in 2006-2007, with the United States providing about $126 million in development assistance. The World Bank plans to double aid to India to almost $3 billion a year, with focus on infrastructure, education, health, and rural livelihoods.
Information by U.S. Department of State