Slowdown in foreign trade compounds economic woes

Indian export data released on Friday confirmed a sharp slowdown in foreign trade, adding to the woes of Asia's third-largest economy and piling more pressure on the weak coalition government to take steps to boost economic growth.

Indian exports inched up 3.23 percent to $24.5 billion in April from a year earlier after falling in March, a far cry from the more than 20 percent growth recorded in recent years. India has been hit by falling demand from its traditional export markets in the United States and Europe.

Faced with a barrage of dismal economic data in the past few months, the government's chief strategy has been to blame the downturn on high global oil prices and the euro zone debt crisis, while insisting that this is a temporary blip and growth prospects are still good.

The government has been criticised for its piecemeal approach to the economic crisis so far. Economists were sceptical about the impact of austerity measures announced on Thursday that included some curbs on government spending.

Singh on Friday also unveiled a new plan to fast-track delayed infrastructure projects to provide fresh impetus to the economy. More than 200 large state-funded road, port and oil pipeline projects are running behind schedule.

In the three years before the global financial crisis, India was roaring with growth above 9 percent and ambitions to challenge China as the world's top emerging economy.


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