India's Finance Minister P Chidambaram has described the country's banking sector as the driving force of economic reforms, though New Delhi is still to fully open the sector to foreign financial institutions.
Lauding the incredible reach of its public sector banks, he said: "The success of the economic reforms is there for all to see and the driving force of the economic reforms is the banking sector." Chidambaram, who was speaking at the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the UK operations of Bank of Baroda in London on Monday night, had earlier assured British investors that New Delhi would soon push through bills pertaining to reforms in pension and insurance sectors.
Overseas investors, including in the UK and the US, have for long been seeking access to India's financial markets, but reforms have been slow to come owing to pressures from coalition partners.
Chidambaram said in the current year, the growth rate of India is nearing 9 per cent and this could be maintained and improved upon, he said.
"India is firing on all cylinders and one can see hunger and drive in every section (to achieve progress) and we must continue this for the next 15-20 years and it is possible," he added.
Lord Swraj Paul, British ambassador for Overseas Business, Piara Singh Khabra, Labour MP and a large number of NRI businessmen and industrialists were present on the occasion.
Bank of Baroda is among the leading banks in India and currently has 60 offices in 21 countries and within India it has 2,700 branches. The UK operation accounted for 40 per cent of the Bank's global operation.