Hailing the budget, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday said it would reverse the pessimistic mood and lay the roadmap for investments as he expressed confidence of returning to eight per cent growth within three years.
Dr. Singh listed fiscal deficit, inflation and current account deficit as three barriers that can affect the realisation of the growth potential of the economy.
“Given the formidable challenges facing our economy, the Finance Minister has done a commendable job,” the Prime Minister said in an interview to Doordarshan soon after the presentation of the General Budget for 2013-14.
“The Finance Minister has taken important steps to reverse pessimistic mood with regard to investment climate, with regard to the growth potential and possibilities of our economy,” he said.
Dr. Singh said India needs to accelerate the tempo of growth to create jobs for its growing labour force to the extent of about 10 million persons every year.
“We need, as the 12th five year plan has mentioned eloquently, a growth rate of about eight per cent. This is a growth rate which is consistent with our underlying potential,” he said, adding it was a difficult task which cannot be achieved in a single year.
Dr. Singh said the Finance Minister has laid out a roadmap which has “plenty of food for every ministry to chew there.”
Expressing confidence that India could return to eight per cent growth within three years, Dr. Singh said all ministries needed to work together to convert the challenges identified by the Finance Minister into opportunities.
“It is up to the collective wisdom of my council of ministers to convert these challenges into opportunities to accelerate the tempo of growth, to make it more inclusive, to make it more sustainable,” Dr. Singh said.
Noting that the economic survey had pegged the growth rate between 6.2 and 6.7 per cent, Dr. Singh said “in three years’ time, if we work hard and the world economy also improves, we should get back to 8 per cent growth rate in two to three years time.”
He flagged three “barriers”— fiscal deficit, inflation and current account deficit — that can affect the realisation of the growth potential of the economy and said there was a need for a multi-pronged strategy to tackle these.
Admitting that inflation had gone “out of hand”, he said the budget has outlined the path to bring fiscal deficit under control which could help rein it.
“The Finance Minister has charted a path to bring fiscal deficit under control. And if he succeeds in that course, I think he would have created a better climate for growth, better climate for investment and we would have also created a climate for lower latent levels of inflation that we have had in the last two years,” Dr. Singh said.
He favoured reduction, in the medium term, in the country’s dependence on imports of iron, coal, gold and petroleum products to tackle the problem posed by current account deficit.
“This is a medium term objective. This can be achieved by reducing unwanted imports, partly by boosting the country’s exports,” Dr. Singh said.
On problems faced by projects on account of clearances of various sorts, Singh said the government was committed to use the mechanism of the Cabinet Committee on Investments to clear the roadblocks to investments.
“We have committed ourselves to use the mechanism of Cabinet Committee on Investments to grapple with these tensions which exist in our system and to ensure that these roadblocks, whether they are in environment clearances or forest clearances or other roadblocks, are dealt with so that these roadblocks can be cleared,” Dr. Singh said.
Dr. Singh said the mood of the country was that it should not lose anytime in getting back to the high growth track.
“I am pretty certain that the mood of the country is that this country must not lose any time. It must get its act together to accelerate the tempo of economic growth, sustainable growth, equitable growth,” he said.
He said if the general mood in the country was right, it would also influence the bureaucracy and the opposition.
“In this task, there will be no winners or no losers. If India succeeds in getting to a growth path of 8 per cent or more, I think the winners will be the people of India. Winners will be our young men and women who desperately need productive job opportunities,” Dr. Singh said.
Asked about the comfortable levels of current account deficit, he said 2.5 per cent to 3 per cent of the GDP was a “safe level”.