PM admits 6.5 percent growth difficult, promises more action

New Delhi, July 19 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday asserted that his government would be more "proactive" and "leave no stone unturned" to ensure a rebound in the economy which, he admitted, would grow slower than the expected 6.5 percent for the current fiscal.

The prime minister also for the first time joined issue with the opposition that has been attacking him for the slowdown.

"Our political critics focus on the experience of one bad year. This makes for good television but it's a very distorted picture," said a combative prime minister and added that his coalition "has a record any government would be proud of".

He urged the industry captains not to give in to negative sentiments and stay the course.

"When things are going well, government should interfere as little as possible. When things go badly, as they seem to be at present, it is the responsibility of the government to become proactive," said the prime minister, addressing the 92nd annual meeting of industry association Assocham in the capital.

"We will leave no stone unturned to ensure that the economy rebounds. I appeal to each one of you not to be overcome by negative sentiment."

Economic growth hit a decade low of 5 percent last fiscal on account of poor performance of farm, manufacturing and mining sectors.

"I would not like to make a forecast of what our growth will be in the year 2013-14. The IMF has recently reduced its earlier projection of growth rates for all countries including India, for 2013. We had targeted 6.5 percent growth at the time the Budget was presented. But it looks as if it will be lower than that."

The prime minister said the government was taking all steps to boost investments and build infrastructure for the economy to rebound.

He hoped the agriculture sector would do well due to the plentiful rains and would help revive demand in rural areas, contributing to stronger industrial performance in due course.

"Industrial growth has not yet recovered. However, I am happy to say that agriculture looks well set to show a good performance."

"I feel we can and we should remain optimistic. The basic fundamentals of our economy are sound and healthy. We have been taking all possible measures to correct imbalances on the macro front," said the prime minister.

Highlighting the UPA government's performance, Singh said the average growth rate during eight years (2004-05 to 2012-13) was 8.2 percent. This was much better than 5.7 percent achieved in the previous eight years.

He also said real wages had risen much faster rate of 6.8 percent per year in the 11th plan period as compared to an average of 1.1 percent annually in the 10 years preceding it.

Emphasising that percentage of the population below the poverty line declined at a much faster rate of 2 percent between 2004-05 and 2011-12, he said, the rate, however, was just 0.75 percent before 2004-05.

"I think this is a record that any government can be proud of."

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