The National Development Council (NDC) on Saturday endorsed a growth target of nine per cent for the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17) despite the current economic slowdown and global financial concerns, even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appealed to political parties to ensure that long-term goals do not become hostage to short-term interests.

Following the daylong deliberations of the country's highest policy decision-making body, wherein a number of non-UPA States rapped the Centre over various issues, Dr. Singh assured the Chief Ministers that the Commission would take note of their suggestions while drafting the Plan.

“We have had a fruitful discussion. Many Chief Ministers had expressed their views on various issues covered in the Approach Paper. There are different views on some issues, but there is a broad agreement that the objectives laid out in the Approach Paper and the challenges identified therein should be the basis of finalising the 12th Plan,” Dr. Singh said.

Briefing the media after the meeting of the NDC, chaired by the Prime Minister, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said the target for five-year Plan period would be an annual average growth rate of nine per cent, up from the 8.2 per cent estimated during the 11th Plan.

Earlier, initiating the discussions on Approach Paper, Dr. Singh, while expressing concern over the current economic slowdown, exhorted the nation to guard against the prevailing “mood of negativism” as the ongoing weak phase was a “short-term phenomenon” reflecting highly unsettled conditions in the world economy as growth rates were being revised downwards in all the countries for the current year.

“The current slowdown is a matter of concern... We must guard against the mood of negativism that seems to have gripped the country.”

Good prospects

He suggested that with India's long-term prospects remaining “very good,” the 12th Plan policies should be shaped so as to take full advantage of the “emerging possibilities” stemming from a realignment of economic power and growing importance of emerging economies.

“The world is going through a major realignment of economic power. Industrialised countries are slowing down, emerging market economies are gaining weight and regionally, Asia is gaining weight. As an emerging market economy in Asia, we stand to gain on both counts. Our policies in the 12th Plan must therefore be shaped to take full advantage of these emerging possibilities,” Dr. Singh said.

“In setting target for the 12th Plan, we must look at longer term potential, assuming that the immediate short-term problems will be overcome. I have absolutely no doubt that our country's longer term prospects are very good,” he said.

Dr. Singh pointed out that although much of the economic growth is driven by the private sector, the government has a large role to play in providing a policy environment to encourage farmers and entrepreneurs. “This includes an environment of macro-economic stability, efficient functioning markets... a sound financial system for allocating financial resources, good governance with transparency, and effective enforcement of the rule of law,” he said, while noting that the government also has a very big role to play in developing both urban and rural infrastructure that is required to support broad and inclusive growth.

The Prime Minister stressed that each citizen should have access to essential public services of “acceptable quality” in areas such as health, education, provision of safe drinking water and sanitation. “Without such services, effective inclusion is simply not possible,” he said.

Seeking to reverse the mood of negativism through collective responsibility, Dr Singh said: “…The future is what we make of it. Nothing is ordained or pre-determined. India can rise, but India can also falter. We live in a world of rising and faltering economies. We can either become victims of negativism, criticising ourselves all the way, or work together to put ourselves firmly in the group of rising economies. Both optimism and pessimism have an infectious quality.”

In this regard, especially when the Opposition appears to be “in a perennial combat mode,” Dr. Singh on Saturday asked the parliamentary parties to strike a balance in their political positions on issues.

“Elected governments can deliver only if... the political process works to allow government to function in a manner where the needs of long-term development do not become hostage to short-term concerns. What this means is that parliamentary parties have to strike a difficult balance between maintaining adversarial political positions on many issues, while also cooperating to advance longer term national agenda,” he said, while admitting that this balance “is not easy to strike.”

Subtly hinting at the apparent ongoing conflicts between the Executive, the Judiciary and Parliament, Dr. Singh said that while development requires time and patience for policies to have an impact and also requires co-operation, at times like these, “it is of vital importance that each of our democratic institutions — the executive, the judiciary, Parliament and State Legislatures, the various constitutional and regulatory authorities, understand what their due role is, and play it in a constructive manner.”

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