The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hint of harsh measures
- Montek says hard decisions needed to achieve 8% growth

New Delhi, June 19: The government will have to take hard decisions to achieve the 7-8 per cent economic growth target spelt out in the common minimum programme (CMP), Montek Singh Ahluwalia said here today.

Ahluwalia, who will assume office on July 1 as deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, said, “Progress is made only if you are willing to take hard decisions. I am confident that a 7 to 8 per cent economic growth rate is achievable.”

The new deputy chief of the plan panel said it was only in 2003-04 that GDP growth had touched 8 per cent. “In the preceding years, the growth rate hovered around 4 to 5 per cent and the average for the last five years must be less than 6 per cent,” he added.

He said the 7-8 per cent GDP growth target outlined in the CMP was the “correct range” and could be achieved.

Ahluwalia said he would have no difficulty working within the ambit of the CMP, which has clearly enunciated a broad policy in terms of plan programme and plan policy. It would be the Planning Commission’s task to translate the objectives into action, he added.

Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Planning Commission member-secretary Rajiva Ratna Shah, Ahluwalia said he anticipated no problems from the Left while seeking to push economic reforms.

“We do have a common framework endorsed by different groups supporting the government from within and outside. I am convinced that the CMP provides enough flexibility to meet the expectation of all in implementing reforms with a human face,” he said.

Asked about the Left parties’ demand to raise interest rate on employees’ provident fund and small savings instruments, he said, “I do not want to comment on demands of individuals or political parties. Our effort will be to translate the CMP of the government into action.”

He said India’s economic policy has been appreciated worldwide simply because it is framed after a broad consensus and the CMP reflected this.

Terming the task ahead as huge, Ahluwalia said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had given a clear direction on implementing the CMP. The performance in the last few years was not sufficient, he added.

“If employment has to be increased and living standards improved, we have to achieve the targeted growth rate,” he said, adding that internationally, the perception about Indian economy was that it had great strength in achieving targeted growth rates.

Meanwhile, K. C. Pant, the outgoing deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, warned that populist measures could damage the economy.

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