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Priorities: Reforms, jobs, inflation

NEW DELHI, June 9 (Agencies): The new government will pursue a broad economic reform agenda focused on job creation through public and private investment that also makes containing inflation its top priority, President Pranab Mukherjee told Parliament on Monday.

The President said the government would introduce a goods & services tax, encourage foreign investment and speed up approvals for major business projects while clearing bottlenecks that make India's food inflation the highest among major economies.

”Containing food inflation will be the topmost priority for my government. There would be an emphasis on improving the supply side of various agro and agro-based products. My government will take effective steps to prevent hoarding and black marketing,” Mukherjee said in his address to the first joint sitting of Parliament after the general elections.

The address is the political, economic and foreign policy road map of the Narendra Modi government.

Mukherjee said returning to a path of high economic growth after several volatile years was paramount.

”My government will create a policy environment which is predictable, transparent and fair,” he said.

Asia's third-largest economy grew by 4.7 percent in 2013-14, marking the second straight year of sub-5 percent growth and the longest such slowdown in more than a quarter of a century.

On the possibility of deficient rains, he said that “my government is alert about the possibility of a subnormal monsoon this year and contingency plans are being prepared”.

The retail inflation accelerated to a three-month high of 8.59 per cent in April mainly due to increasing prices of vegetables, fruits and milk.

”Inflation continues to be at an unacceptable level,” he said, adding that “we will work together to usher our economy into a high growth path, rein in inflation, re-ignite the investment cycle”.

The government will “urgently pursue” reforms to the state-run coal sector and to the defence industry to attract private investment, the president said, while speeding up project clearances to promote labour intensive manufacturing industries.

Some 10 million people enter the country's workforce every year as the largest youth bulge the world has ever seen reaches working age. The demographic shift may help propel India into the league of developed nations but could lead to economic and social disaster if it is not harnessed effectively.

Modi's government also promised to ensure that every Indian family has a good home with uninterrupted supplies of power by 2022.

It will urgently seek to revamp India's creaking railway system, with a focus on high speed trains, as well as road and airport building.