India's key facts

by Meyer Sosland
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Capital: New Delhi

Population: 1,147,995,898 (July 2008 est.)

Religions: Hindu 80.5%, Muslim 13.4%, Christian 2.3%, Sikh 1.9%, other 1.8%, unspecified 0.1% (2001 census).

Location: Southern Asia, bordering the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, between Burma and Pakistan.

Government: Federal republic; chief of state: President Pratibha Patil (since July 25, 2007); head of government: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (since May 22, 2004).

Economy: India’s diverse economy encompasses traditional village farming, modern agriculture, handicrafts, a wide range of modern industries and a multitude of services. Services are the major source of economic growth, accounting for more than half of India’s output with less than one-third of its labor force. About 60% of the workforce is in agriculture, leading the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to articulate an economic reform program that includes developing basic infrastructure to improve the lives of the rural poor and boost economic performance. The government has reduced controls on foreign trade and investment. Higher limits on foreign direct investment were permitted in a few key sectors, such as telecommunications. However, tariff spikes in sensitive categories, including agriculture, and incremental progress on economic reforms still hinder foreign access to India’s vast and growing market. Privatization of government-owned industries remains stalled and continues to generate political debate; populist pressure from within the UPA government and from its Left Front allies continues to restrain needed initiatives. 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 8.5% GDP growth in 2006, and again in 2007, significantly expanding production of manufactures. 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. Economic expansion has helped New Delhi continue to make progress in reducing its federal fiscal deficit. However, strong growth combined with easy consumer credit and a real estate boom fueled inflation concerns in 2006 and 2007, leading to a series of central bank interest rate hikes that have slowed credit growth and eased inflation concerns. The huge and growing population is the fundamental social, economic and environmental problem.

GDP per capita: $2,700 (2007 est.); Inflation: 5.9% (2007 est.); unemployment 7.2% (2007 est.).

Currency: Indian rupee; 1 U.S. dollar = 39.8338 Indian rupees (April 21, 2008).

Exports: $140.8 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.): petroleum products, textile goods, gems and jewelry, engineering goods, chemicals, leather manufactures.

Imports: $224.1 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.): crude oil, machinery, gems, fertilizer, chemicals.

Major crops/agricultural products: Rice, wheat, oilseeds, cotton, jute, tea, sugarcane, potatoes; cattle, water buffalo, sheep, goats, poultry, fish.

Agriculture: 16.6% of GDP and 60% of the labor force.

Internet: Code. .in; 2.306 million (2007) hosts and 60 million (2004) users.

Source: CIA World Factbook