India says its economy grew by more than 10 percent in the final quarter of 2003. The high growth was partly triggered by the best monsoon rains in a decade.
The figures are good news for India's economy. The Center for Monitoring of the Indian Economy says growth between October and December last year was a sizzling 10.4 percent. It says this was largely driven by an increase of nearly 17 percent in farm output.
As much as 70 percent of India's billion-plus population relies on farming for a living, and agricultural production accounts for a quarter of the national economy.
Last year's bountiful monsoon rains came after successive years of drought, and helped farmers reap bumper harvests.
T.R. Bhaumik, an economist and senior policy adviser to the Confederation of Indian Industry, said the double-digit growth is a welcome break from a long spell of slow growth in India. "We are now definitely on a high growth path," he said. "This is a distinct signal that there is a recovery in the economy now."
Industry groups and other bodies have predicted that India's overall growth for the financial year that just ended in March will have surpassed eight percent. That is nearly double the previous year's (March 2002-03) growth of four percent, and would put India among the fastest growing economies in the world.
Economists warn that growth may dip somewhat in the coming year, if monsoon rains are not as ample as last year.
But they say the overall confidence in the economy remains strong. Both the manufacturing and services sectors are growing at more than eight percent, and are expected to continue expanding at the same pace for some years.
The improved performance of the economy has brought renewed global attention to the country. Foreign investors put some $7 billion into Indian stocks last year, and are continuing to watch the country with interest.