NEW DELHI (AFP) – India must adopt “inclusive growth” to lift people from grinding poverty, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Thursday, as he forecast the economy would expand by over nine percent this fiscal year.
“Inclusive growth” to ensure that India’s poverty-hit masses benefit from the economic boom has become a catchword for the Congress coalition as it faces elections in the nation’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, next month.
“If we remain steadfast in this inclusive growth, we will be able to be make an impact on problems of poverty and unemployment,” Singh told parliament.
“We need to pursue a purposeful strategy so that the growth benefits every one,” he said.
He reaffirmed forecasts that economic growth would “probably exceed nine percent” in the financial year to March 2007.
Singh added that the government, which was swept to power in 2004 by many voters who felt left out of India’s new affluence, was keen to ensure growth of the rural economy and the development of rural infrastructure.
Singh said the pace of progress in the agricultural sector was “not adequate” and “falls short of what we need.”
The farm sector has grown by an average of slightly more than two percent annually for the past few years, far below the 9.2 percent growth projected for the overall economy in the current financial year.
Singh’s statements came after India stepped up its war on poverty in a budget last month that used revenues from strong economic growth to try to boost farm output. It also raised spending on education and health.
With over half of the 1.1 billion population dependent on the farm sector, low agriculture output has cast a shadow over “the India shining story” with critics saying the rural masses have yet to reap the fruits of strong economic growth.
In parts of India, the fight for greater economic and social rights has turned violent with leftist rebels staging deadly raids on government targets.
The government says it is aiming to achieve a “sustainable growth trajectory” of around 10 percent annually by 2012, the double-digit number economists say is needed to make a significant dent in poverty.