Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Friday asked banks to focus and reach out to the weaker sections of society as a high economic growth without according benefits to the poor would not achieve the national goal of inclusive growth.
In his address at the ‘Founder's Day' celebration function of Canara Bank here, Mr. Mukherjee said the banking sector should expand its reach and thereby help in inclusive growth as high gross domestic product (GDP) numbers without alleviating the plight of the poor would remain just a statistical number.
The Finance Minister stressed that without turning complacent on achieving the 8.5 per cent growth as expected for the current year, he said ways would have to be found to overcome the hurdles in the way of double digit growth. “We cannot remain satisfied with this growth [8.5 per cent expected this fiscal]. We shall have to cross the barrier of double digit growth,” he said.
Commending Canara Bank for the launch of its five major initiatives — opening 100 additional branches, including 10 microfinance branches; installing 105 ATMs; 50,000 smart cards through business correspondents; issuing general credit cards to one lakh beneficiaries and opening financial literacy and credit counselling centres (FLCC) in 10 districts — Mr. Mukherjee said: “I congratulate the bank for these initiatives for financial inclusion”.
“It is important that financial inclusion, which is core to the government's policy agenda, is carried forward in a cost-effective manner. The government is in favour of cost-effective technology solutions, implicit and explicit incentives and commitment to increase financial penetration of affordable banking services, particularly in the rural and unorganised sectors,” he said.
Turning to the challenge of developing world-class infrastructure, Mr. Mukherjee pointed out that there would be an estimated gap of 30 per cent in the $1 trillion investment pegged for infrastructure during the XII Plan (2012-17). “We have to breach that gap,” he said. For better coordination among regulators in this regard, the Finance Minister said the Ministry had decided to establish the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) and a discussion paper had been circulated in coordination with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). “Another important legislation which we are going to have for which we have set up a committee, is [the] Financial Legislative Reforms Commission (FLRC),” he said. The objective was to update various financial sector related legislation, so that it could be in tune with the prevailing condition, he said. Speaking on the occasion, which was also attended by Minister of State for Finance Namo Narain Meena and Financial Services Secretary R. Gopalan, Canara Bank Chairman and Managing Director S. Raman indicated that in the next two to three years, the bank proposed to add 1,000 new branches and another 2,000 ATMs to its network.