PM confident of returning to eight percent growth within three years

New Delhi, Feb 28 (ANI): A confident Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh on Thursday said India could return to eight percent growth within three years provided all the ministers work together to convert the challenges identified by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram into opportunities.

“The Finance Minister has mentioned, and yesterday”s Economic Survey also hints, that it is realistic to assume a growth rate of about 6.2 to 6.7 percent, and that in three years time, if we work hard, if the world economy also improves, we should get back to the 8 percent growth path – in two to three years time,” said Dr. Singh in an exclusive interview to Doordarshan soon after the presentation of Union Budget 2013-14 in Parliament.

Lauding the Finance Minister for presenting a budget that is able to cope up with the challenges of the nation”s economy, Dr. Singh said India needs to create jobs for our growing labour force to the extent of about 10 million persons every year.

“Given the challenges facing our economy, the Finance Minister has done a commendable job. India needs to create jobs for our growing labour force to the extent of about 10 million persons every year. To do that, we need to accelerate the tempo of our growth. We need, as the 12th Five Year Plan has mentioned eloquently, a growth rate of about 8 percent. This is a growth rate, which is consistent with our underlying potential,” said Dr. Singh.

“We have to get there. Although this is a difficult journey – it cannot be accomplished in a single year – but the Finance Minister, has taken important steps to reverse the pessimistic view with regard to investment climate, with regard to the growth potential and possibilities of our economy,” he added.

Dr. Singh said the Finance Minister has laid out a roadmap, and added that there is plenty of food for every Ministry to chew upon.

“And each one of our Ministries has to ask itself this question: If India needs an 8 percent growth rate, growth which is at the same time inclusive and sustainable, what is it that each Ministry should do? The Finance Minister has, I think, mentioned these challenges. It is up to the collective wisdom of my Council of Ministers to convert these challenges into opportunities to accelerate the tempo of growth, to make it more inclusive, to make it more sustainable,” he said, when asked about the reforms that he was looking at in the six months ahead.

On the issue whether the government would get adequate support in Parliament in the coming days, Dr. Singh candidly admitted that there have been problems with regard to clearances, with regard to environmental clearances, with regard to forest clearances, land acquisition problems.

However, he said: “Whatever is within the realm of possibilities of the central government, we will do. We have committed ourselves that we will use the mechanism of the Cabinet Committee on Investment to grapple with these tensions which exist in our system, and to ensure that roadblocks, whether they are environmental clearance roadblocks, or forest clearances, or other roadblocks, they are dealt with, so that they can be cleared and removed.”

The Prime Minister further said that the country must not lose any time and must get its act together to accelerate the tempo of economic growth, sustainable growth, equitable growth.

“I do believe that if the general mood of the country is right, it will infect the bureaucracy, it will infect the Opposition, and in this task, there are no winners or no losers. If India succeeds in sticking to a growth path of eight percent or more, I think the winners will be the people of India; winners will be our young men and young women, who desperately need new productive job opportunities,” he said.

He also said that there are three types of barriers affecting growth potential – fiscal deficit, inflation and current account deficit.

He said the finance minister has charted a path to bring the fiscal deficit under control, and “if we succeed in that quest, I think we would have created a better climate for investment; we would have created a better climate also for more moderate levels of inflation than we have had in the last two years.”

If fiscal deficit is brought under control, it will also enable us to moderate the pace of inflation.

“We cannot reduce the current account deficit in one go. As the Finance Minister mentioned, we have a Current Account Deficit of about 75 billion dollars. In the short run, it has to be financed. In the medium run, it must be reduced. We must reduce our dependence on imports of oil, of coal, of gold, of petroleum products. This is a medium term objective, and it can be achieved, partly by reducing unwanted imports, partly by boosting the country”s export effort,” Dr. Singh said.

He added: “So a multi-pronged strategy has to be in place to achieve credible answers to all these three problems – tackling the fiscal deficit, tackling the inflation problem, tackling the Current Account Deficit.”

He said that 2.5 to three percent of GDP is a safe level of Current Account Deficit. (ANI)