has reduced poverty by 10 percent, but with 60 percent
of India's 1.1 billion population living off agriculture,
with droughts and floods increasing with the changing
climatic regime, poverty alleviation is still a major
challenge. The Indian Government signed a wide-ranging
nuclear treaty with the US, in 2008 in part to gain
access to nuclear power plant technology that can ensure
the country energy security and reduce its dependence
on oil imports.
economy has been one of the stars of global
economics in recent years, with a growth rate
of 9.2 percent in 2007 and 9.6 percent in 2006.
Growth had been supported by markets reforms,
huge inflows of foreign direct investment (FDI),
rising foreign exchange reserves, both an IT
and real estate boom, and a flourishing capital
market. India's infrastructure is being upgraded
during the 11th five year plan (2007-12)
Against the above background, Amrita
Chatterjee interviews Ms. Beth A. Payne, Consul General,
United States Consulate in Kolkata, on India's expanding
economic relations with the US and the potential for
US investments in this country in general and Bengal
Ms. Beth A. Payne began her assignment
as U.S Consul General in Kolkata, India, recently.
A career Foreign Service Officer, she joined the U.S
State Department in 1993. She had earlier worked in
the US embassies in Senegal, Rwanda, Israel and Kuwait.
She also served in the Office of Children Issues in
the State Department in Washington D.C. Ms. Payne
received a M.S in National Security Studies from the
National Ware College in 2008; J.D from American University's
Washington College of Law in 1988; and a B.S. in special
Education from Pennsylvania State University in 1985.
She was also named the state Department's Consular
Officer of the year in 2004 in recognition of her
work in Iraq.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
talked about the beginning of a new era in Indo-US
relations during her recent visit to India. What opportunities
do you visualize?
The development is so exciting! Hillary
Clinton's visit emphasizes the Indo-US relations that
have already started in areas of environment, health,
defense, security, agriculture, technology and several
others. Strategic relations have been built in partnership
whether it's the issue of climate change, or need
for nuclear energy. Crucially, the recent developments,
including her visit, have broadened our relationship
with India. We witness that friendship has grown much
deeper in the last decade. Now, new avenues will open
up towards development and at the same time in partnership.
India and the US will combat the challenges of security,
poverty alleviation, and climate change. The nuke
deal has already solidified; there will be major breakthroughs
in the forthcoming days.
Though India is economically stable,
some political uncertainties still exist. Why do you
think American investments should come to India?
Well, India now has stable Indian
government; it's a stable and a very good government
to work with. Political uncertainties are much less
now. Investors can evaluate the immense potential
that exists in this country. India has a committed
work force, largest in the world market; it has an
expanding market place with growing middle class.
Government of India is greatly encouraging Private-Public-Partnerships
and there are bigger opportunities for investors to
come and explore.
In regard to Bengal, why do you think
investors should stay on?
Well, every state has its own potential
to attract investors, Bengal has a very educated work
force. We just had a team from Export Import Bank,
which finances large investments. It came to West
Bengal. Bengal has tremendous potential in the Information
Technology sector. Many US companies had an excellent
experience here. Pepsi is expanding its potato processing
plant for its products in the state. Lastly, it is
very much up to the people of West Bengal, how they
would like to shape the development opportunities
in their State.
What in your opinion is the potential of rural Bengal
as a global market?
The rural sector in West Bengal is
densely populated and has good potential. US largely
believes in inclusive economic growth, where large
sections of people can be part of the development
process. Whatsoever, the existing challenges are in
rural or urban areas, private investors can find creative
solutions to such challenges, its just the law has
to permit. FDI is restricted in insurance, thus many
insurance companies cannot design any insurance coverage
for the rural population. It is important to have
policies and at the same time investments that are
ideally, economically, and socially viable. CSR (Corporate
Social Responsibility), is a big component now, everyone
understands, that quick money will not last, the welfare
of all is a factor for long term investments.
Do you think recession will end by 2011?
I cannot predict anything. We certainly
can hope for the best to happen for all by 2011.
What is your take on the sustainability factor in
the economic development of India?
As said, our perspective is of inclusive
economic growth, which means the development process
will not only benefit the entire population but will
also consider the environmental issues. It should
not be the way, like only a handful gets a bigger
piece of pie. We should have win-win economic gain
for everyone. If a large section stays behind and
continues to survive in poverty, then growth is not
a sustainable growth. We are happy to offer our lessons
learnt. Education, health, needs to be taken care
of. Climate change is threat before us, and the US
is ready to extend all its support to combat such