PM assures of better economy, says slowdown will not last

PM assures of better economy, says slowdown will not last
New Delhi: The slowdown in Indian economy will not last long as government is working hard to remedy the situation, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Thursday as he saw positive impact of the move to open up several sectors to foreign direct investment in the coming months.

"I believe that this phase of slow growth in India will not last long... The average rate of economic growth that we have attained in the last nine years (7.9 percent) shows what we are capable of," Singh said in his address to the Nation from the ramparts of Red Fort on the occasion of 67th Independence Day.

The government expects the economic growth to recover to 6 percent in the current fiscal, from the decade low level of 5 percent recorded in 2012-13.

"... Economic growth has slowed down at present and we are working hard to remedy the situation," Singh said.

Singh said the government has eased investment caps in several sectors and simplified procedures to boost flow of foreign direct investment (FDI).

Last month, the limit on foreign holdings in telecom was raised from 74 percent to 100 percent while restrictions in a dozen other sectors from insurance to tea plantations were eased or abolished. Besides, it has also liberalised the ECB norms for corporates.

"In the coming months, we will see visible results of these efforts to increase investment. Our growth will accelerate, new employment opportunities will be generated and there will be improvements in the infrastructure sector," he said.

Prime Minister hoped the landmark food security bill, which guarantees foodgrains at highly subsidised rates to 81 crore people, will be passed by Parliament shortly.

Faced with widening Current Account Deficit (CAD), the government is looking at ways to attract foreign funds in the form of FDI, External Commercial Borrowings (ECBs) and Foreign Institutional Investment (FII).

The government hopes to bring down CAD, which is the difference between inflow and outflow of foreign exchange, to USD 70 billion this fiscal from USD 88.2 billion in 2012-13.

The government will kick-start a number of new infrastructure projects including 8 new airports and two new sea-ports in the coming months to boost sluggish economic growth, Singh said while listing out government's initiative in this key sector.

"We will start work on a number of new infrastructure projects in the coming months. This includes 2 new ports, 8 new airports, new industrial corridors and rail projects," he said.

India is not the only country facing economic slowdown and world over there has been a slump in export markets and growth in developing countries have been affected.

"It is not only our country that is facing economic difficulties. The last year has been difficult for the world economy as a whole. Major European nations are experiencing a slowdown these days," he added.

In the last nine years, the economy has grown at an annual average rate of 7.9 percent. "This pace of development is the highest in any decade so far," he said.

After growing at over 8 percent for two consecutive years, the economic growth slowed to 6.2 percent in 2011-12 and further to decade's low rate of 5 percent last year on account of poor performance of farm, manufacturing and mining sectors.

"The average rate of economic growth that we have attained in the last 9 years shows what we are capable of," Singh said.

He said rapid economic growth is an imperative as without it the country cannot possibly achieve targets of removal of poverty, provision of good quality education and health services and creation of new employment opportunities.

In order to accord fast track clearances to large infrastructure projects, the government had in January set up a Cabinet Committee on Investment (CCI), headed by the Prime Minister.

Stating that inadequate supply of coal had affected electricity generation, Singh said, "this has been resolved to a large extent."

"Our growth will accelerate, new employment opportunities will be generated and there will be improvement in the infrastructure sector," he said.

He said without rapid agriculture growth it would not be possible to make the villages prosperous.

"We have constantly endeavoured to increase production and ensure that farmers get remunerative prices for their produce," the Prime Minister added.

In the last 9 years, support prices for various crops have been enhanced as never before, Singh said adding that many states which faced shortages of food grains earlier are now producing more than what they require.

Singh said there had been good progress in the last 9 years in the infrastructure sector in areas such as roads, railways, power, civil aviation, ports and telecommunications.

He mentioned that telephone connections in the country has now reached 73 percent from only 7 percent in 2004.

"A special cell has been set up to help big projects with clearances. The Cabinet Committee on investment is working to remove hindrances in the way of stalled projects," Singh said.


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