K. Balchand & Sandeep Joshi

NEW DELHI: Expressing his concern over the rising food prices, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Friday that speeding up the growth process was critical to tackling poverty and disease.

Replying to the debate on the Motion of Thanks to the President's Address to Parliament, he said the government was alive to the problem of rising food prices and had taken all measures to stabilise the prices at reasonable levels. “The worst is over.” Stressing that the government was willing to take further measures if needed, Dr. Singh said there was no cause for panic over food security as rice procurement was no different this year from last year.

He said the price situation was a by-product over which the government had no control, with international commodity prices impacting the country because of the import of oil, sugar and pulses; payment of remunerative prices to farmers, too, raised the floor prices of wheat. He cited figures to drive home the point that the fluctuation in sugar prices was cyclical, and had nothing to do with the exports made to honour commitments. They were just nominal in terms of the money spent on sugar imports. The government was keen on exploring ways and means of stabilising sugar prices, unmindful of the sugarcane production being cyclical.

Underlining the sound macro-economic fundamentals of the economy, Dr. Singh said the country clocked a 6.2 per cent GDP growth during 2008-09. He estimated that during the current financial year, the GDP might grow at 7.2 per cent or possibly 7.5 per cent.

Dr. Singh was confident that it would be over 8 per cent and more in the next fiscal, and over 9 per cent a year later.