Striking an optimistic note, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday pegged the country’s economic growth at five per cent for the financial year ending March 2014, while assuring investors India would re-emerge as an attractive investment destination soon. Singh was speaking at the 12th annual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas here.
“Our economy has done well over the past decade. In the nine years since 2004, we averaged a healthy growth rate of 7.9 per cent per annum. There has been no doubt of a slowdown in the recent past, and we will probably end this year at the same level as last year with a five per cent growth. A number of international as well as domestic factors has contributed to this situation. Despite these challenges, our economic fundamentals remain strong,” Singh said.
The prime minister, who had last week announced he would not seek a third term in office, also said his government had taken key decisions to accelerate the domestic economy. “We have taken wide range of decisions to accelerate the implementation of mega infrastructure projects, reform tax administration, improve fiscal management, liberalise foreign direct investments and rationalise the system for allocation and utilisation of natural resources,” he added.
He also blamed the lack of political consensus for reform measures being held up in the country as a number of key Bills proposed by the government have been pending in Parliament. “With greater political support, we could have legislated deeper reform measures — for example, in the financial and insurance sector. However, our decisions are already beginning to make an impact and India is re-emerging as an attractive investment destination. I am confident you will see the evidence clearly in a few months,” Singh said.
The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is in a tough spot after the Congress lost polls across four states in the recently concluded state elections. With the general elections expected in the next few months, the UPA government has been trying to showcase its achievements over the past 10 years. In addition, the Aam Aadmi Party, formed a year ago in Delhi, had also snatched power from the Congress.
“It is especially encouraging to see our youth from all walks of life not only articulate their expectations and aspirations, but take actively to politics to shape their future. This is only to be welcomed. It is only thus that the extraordinary transformation that is taking place in our country on multiple levels can be distilled constructively into our democratic process, which has the vitality and responsiveness to reflect the new and emerging concerns and hopes and aspirations of our people”, the Prime Minister said.
Singh also said his government has managed to bring about major changes in the country’s socio-economic scenario. “The number of central universities has grown from 17 to 44 while the number of IITs and IIM’s has doubled. We have added over 17,000 kilometres of highways and more than 200,000 kilometres of new roads in rural areas. Our power generation capacity is expanding rapidly, aided by initiatives in solar, wind and nuclear energy to give us a more sustainable energy future,” Singh stressed.
Referring to UPA government’s efforts to bring more transparency and accountability in governance, Singh said the task is complicated because there is a need to overhaul entrenched practices and systems while respecting the federal nature of Indian polity. “Strengthening governance is an ongoing process and we can never say that we have done enough, but I am confident that we are moving in the right direction,” he said.