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Montek confident of higher growth rate

By Our Special Correspondent

The Karnataka Chief Minister, N. Dharam Singh, greeting the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, at a southern Chief Ministers' conference in Bangalore on Wednesday. Also seen from left are: Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy of Andhra Pradesh, Oommen Chandy of Kerala, and Maharashtra's Vilasrao Deshmukh. — Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

BANGALORE, NOV. 17. The Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia today sounded confident that the growth rate in the Gross Domestic Product would be far better in the latter part of the Tenth Five Year Plan period than in the first three years.

After addressing the Chief Ministers of the four Southern States, Maharashtra and the union territory of Pondicherry on the mid-term appraisal of the Plan and also listening to their demands, the Deputy Chairman said that it was a fact that there were slippages during the first three years of the Plan period and that could not be made good. The target for the GDP growth rate was 8.2 per cent and the Planning Commission was confident of achieving a growth of seven to eight per cent .

The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, J. Jayalalithaa could not attend the meeting, including the one-to-one discussion arranged for the Chief Ministers with Dr. Ahluwalia later in the day. It was stated that she was busy with the Legislature session and so was the Finance Minister of Tamil Nadu, C. Ponnaiyan. The Chief Secretary to the Government of Tamil Nadu, Lakshmi Pranesh attended the meeting.

All the others, Oomen Chandy (Chief Minister of Kerala), Rangaswamy (Pondicherry) Vilas Rao Deshmukh (Maharashtra ) and Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy (Andhra Pradesh) apart from the Karnataka Chief Minister, Dharam Singh participated in the deliberations. Karnataka had a big team in attendance including the Deputy Chief Minister, Siddaramaiah and all the Cabinet ministers. The Union Minister of State for Planning, M.V. Rajashekaran also attended the consultation.

Dr. Ahluwalia indicated that there could be changes in the Planning Commission's focus after the mid-term appraisal although all fresh allocations would be in consultation with the Union Finance Ministry. There was also the Finance Commission, which was going into various aspects, including the debt burden of the States. "There is however the need to bring in certain innovative schemes which can hasten the pace of development and this called for mobilising additional resources. We are also aware of the huge debt burden of the States and the consequent fiscal stress and planning for some measures towards solving this growing problem ".

The Chief Ministers of Karnataka and Maharashtra made a strong plea for special allocations to provide a good infrastructure in Bangalore and Mumbai respectively. The demand was stated to be relatively new to the Planning Commission and Dr. Ahluwalia said that the demand would be looked into.

In the view of the Commission, a good infrastructure was key to an all-round growth and development.

He said the focus of the Planning Commission was on agriculture and irrigation, urban infrastructure, employment , Sarva Shikshan Abhiyan (Education for All), midday meal scheme for school children and the food-for-work programme . It was also looking into the demands of the power sector and simultaneously the continuing demand for power subsidies. The fact, however was that there should be viability for the infrastructure sector although subsidy had also a role to play in the uplift and welfare of the economically weaker sections. The Commission also said there should be a blend of public and private sector participation in infrastructure development.

Mr. Dharam Singh wanted Dr. Ahluwalia to provide Karnataka two per cent of the value of the software exports from the State under the ASIDE scheme. That would help the State in providing a good infrastructure in Bangalore, regarded as the IT capital of the country.

Karnataka also needed a special assistance for the development of the backward districts in the north-eastern region of the State.

Dr. Ahluwalia has already held discussions on mid-term appraisal with the Chief Ministers of the north-eastern States at Guwahati and those of the Chief Ministers of the eastern States at Kolkata, and those of the western States at Jaipur.

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