Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has underlined the need for new approaches to address challenges in infrastructure, education, energy, water and agriculture.

In his inaugural address at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas here on Tuesday, the Prime Minister dwelt at length on the state of the economy and pointed out that despite the impressive performance and change on an enormous scale in the past two decades, India faced persisting challenges of poverty, equity, sustainability and opportunity. “Vulnerable sections of society, including our women, face enduring prejudices and continuing problems in a rapidly changing India,” he said.

He told the NRIs that in the last four years, the world economy had had to deal with two major financial crises, both emanating from the developed world. “The Indian economy has not been immune to the consequences of these crises. From an impressive average annual GDP growth rate of over 8 per cent between 2004 and 2010, our growth declined to 6.5 per cent in 2011-12 and may fall below 6 per cent in the current year,” he said.

Positive stories too

“But despite domestic constraints and challenges, the government is confident that the country’s strong economic fundamentals, backed by sound policies, would enable us to return to a higher growth path. “This is an imperative for us because we need rapid growth and a healthy economy to meet the aspirations of an increasingly young India and make our economic development more inclusive and more sustainable. With this in view, we have recently taken a number of steps to boost domestic and foreign investment, accelerate project implementation and reform capital markets and the tax system,” he said.

“Among the most positive stories out of India in recent years are the acceleration in the rate of poverty reduction, stronger growth in the poorest States and improved productivity and increased real wages in our agriculture sector. This is significant, given that 65 per cent of our population still relies on agriculture,” he noted.

Dr. Singh told the NRIs that the government had taken a small first step on New Year Day to deliver benefits through direct transfer to beneficiaries, using the digital Aadhaar platform. “This is an example of our efforts to make growth more inclusive and government programmes more efficient and less vulnerable to leakages of various sorts. The country has just embarked on its 12th Five-Year Plan with the ambition to sustain an annual growth rate of 8 per cent. For this, we will require enormous resources, reforms in policies and institutions, new models of public-private partnership and community participation and innovation-driven science and technology. Even as we continue our focus on rural areas, and we must continue to do so, we will need to pay greater attention to our expanding cities and towns. New approaches would be needed to address these challenges.”

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