Union Finance Minister Pranab said that India had recovered from the global financial meltdown and the economy was in far better shape than it was a year ago to achiever a double digit GDP growth, while speaking at the 59th Convocation of Punjab University, here on Wednesday.

“India has emerged from an unprecedented global slowdown faster than any other nation. The advance estimates indicate a 7.2 per cent growth in 2009-10. Exports are also recovering with an 11.5 per cent growth in January 2010,” said Mr. Mukherjee.He added that the challenge in front of the Government was to quickly revert to the high GDP growth path and then harness economic growth in order to provide rural infrastructure and improve food security, better education and proper health facilities.

Speaking about the weaknesses in the government systems, he said that, “Indeed if there is one factor that can hold us back in realising our potential as a modern nation, it is the bottleneck of our public delivery mechanisms. There have been many initiatives in this regard; some of them have been effective in reforming the way the government works in those areas but still there is a long way to go."

Admitting that India's access to higher education was still below the international standards, Mr. Mukherjee said the Government intended to set up 30 new Central Universities in the country by the end of Eleventh Five Year Plan. “In each of the 16 uncovered states, a new Central University would be set up. The remaining 14 new Central Universities will be set up as world class centres of excellence at different locations,” he said in his convocation address.

This initiative, along with establishment of 370 new colleges, would address the regional imbalances and would provide a platform for inclusive education in the country. He added that about 500 Universities would be required in the country in the coming ten years, “Education is not only a vehicle of growth but it is also an effective and reliable instrument to ensure social justice. It acts as a liberating force to fight against poverty and hindrances to growth,” he said.

Mukherjee told the graduating students that the India growth story was going through an exciting phase, “Market is opening up and the job situation has also improved considerably with campus recruitments in full swing with very attractive pay packages. The opportunities are again wide open.”

Emphasising skill development, Mr. Mukherjee said it was a key factor for the economic and social growth of the country. “We have to create skill-sets all over the country, including the remote areas and Prime Minister's council on National Skill Development has a mission of creating 50 crore skilled people by 2022,” he said.