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'India poised for 7-8 p.c. growth'

By Our Special Correspondent

The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, releasing the commemorative publication on the occasion of the Centenary Celebrations of the Punjab, Haryana and Delhi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI) in New Delhi on Monday. The President of PHDCCI, K. N. Memani (left), and the chairman, Centenary Celebrations, Raghupati Singhania look on. — Photo: Sandeep Saxena

NEW DELHI, MARCH 21. Exuding confidence, the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, today said India was poised to deliver 7-8 per cent economic growth in the next fiscal and promised measures and policies that would make it possible.

"The growth rate has almost been 7 per cent this year on the back of 8 per cent previous year. All indications at the moment are that we may be able to deliver a 7 to 8 per cent growth even next year,'' he said while inaugurating the centenary celebrations of the Punjab, Haryana and Delhi Chamber of Commerce and Industry here.

Agreeing that India was "at a cusp'' in its development trajectory, he declared that the Government was committed to putting in place a set of policies that would provide the necessary environment for making this growth possible.

The Prime Minister said that the economy broke fresh ground in the 1990s after years of the so-called Hindu rate of growth and had been able to deliver 5 to 6 per cent growth. "This in itself has enabled considerable enhancement in income in general. It has also helped reduce poverty significantly."

"We are now at a point in time where we need to accelerate this growth further and jump into the 7-8 per cent band,'' the Prime Minister said adding that this extra one to two percentage points in the growth rate, which seemed minuscule at a glance, could translate into a substantial difference over a period.

Noting that in 20 years a growth rate of 8 per cent would deliver twice as much as compared to a rate of 5 per cent, he said, "We are committed to creating an environment where creativity and enterprise will flourish, where innovation and knowledge will be rewarded and where growth process will be inclusive and benefit all sections of society.''

Growth-friendly policies

Referring to worries about the policy directions at the time of assumption of office by him, Dr. Singh said. "I think we have proved that the policies of the UPA Government are growth-friendly.''

"Over the last year, policies relating to investment, taxation, external trade, banking and finance, FDI, capital markets and small scale industries have all evolved towards making our industry and enterprises efficient, globally competitive and as free from restrictions as possible,'' the Prime Minister said.

Asserting that the direction was visible, he said the Government would not "falter" in this regard.

"The work of these bodies as well as the knowledge I gain from my own interactions with my Council on Trade and Industry will further enable identification of problem areas that need attention,'' he hoped.

The Prime Minister was candid that the fortunes of rural India could not be transformed without paying adequate attention to agriculture. He said economists, who had studied the pattern of regional development, suggested that a defining element contributing to inter-regional disparities was the extent of agricultural development and urbanisation.

Citing the examples of Punjab and Haryana and southern States, he pointed out that the States that had advanced in economic development were those that were experienced in agrarian transformation and expansion of urban area.

"We have to work extremely hard and in a sustained manner to expand the growth zone to include the rest of India, particularly the Gangetic belt and central region,'' Dr. Singh said adding that these regions needed a "new wave'' of agrarian and rural development.

For this, he said the Government had chalked out a programme — Bharat Nirman — covering irrigation, rural roads, housing, rural electrification, telecom connectivity and drinking water with the expectation that by 2009, "we would have achieved a substantial improvement in the condition of our rural areas and this would provide a growth dividend which will be sizable and more importantly, more evenly spread out,'' he added.

Dr. Singh also underlined the need for States to learn from each other in policies, industrial promotion, social development and urban management and suggested that the PHDCCI could develop a proactive agenda in promoting sharing of information and best practices in the region. Further there was scope for intra-regional initiatives, which the chamber could catalyse and advocate, he added.

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