10% GDP growth will sustain: PM
India had been on course to attaining the double-digit growth path in the medium term, but making it more broad-based and inclusive remained key challenges for macro-economic managers, experts said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.
"Last year we grew at 7.4%, this year I am confident the economy will grow at 8.5%, and next year, we hope to return the economy to a sustained growth rate of 9-10%," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told delegates during a special address at the Summit.
Singh, however, cautioned that achieving the objectives of inclusive growth remained a key challenge.
"A challenge that tests us all the time is that of making out growth process more inclusive, of improving our social and economic infrastructure, of reducing regional imbalances, of increasing the social and economic opportunities for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, other backward classes, minorities, women and children," Singh said.
Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee expressed similar views.
"The growth of income is important in itself, but it is as important for the resources that it brings in," Mukherjee said.
"These resources provide us with the means to bridge the critical gaps that remain in our development efforts, particularly with regard to the welfare of the vulnerable segments of our population. It is equally important that these resources are effectively used," the finance minister said.
Former British prime minister Gordon Brown said the Indian economy will double in size by 2020 and a 10% growth rate was achievable in the near term.
Brown said India should put more of its children in schools and higher education, which in turn would make it a centre of knowledge superpower.
"India should have a growth strategy where investment should be made in the education system, so that India could have leaders in various sectors," Brown said.
India's global role crucial: Brown
The view that emerged at the Summit was that spurred by surging domestic demand, India can become the world's growth-engine as the epicentre of economic activity shifts from the US and Europe to Asia.
But a new global regulatory architecture with early warning systems is important to prevent crises.
India will have a greater responsibility in the new geo-economic calculus defined in a rule-based framework.
"Your (India's) role at the G-20 is absolutely critical. India is right at the centre of the discussions," Brown told delegates.
"It is in India's interest that the world economy grows fast."
"It is a global story. I don't believe the economic crisis is over," Brown said during a special address "Lessons from the Last Global Crisis".
Green concerns no problem
Environment minister Jairam Ramesh and green activist Sunita Narain said environment concerns were no impediment to economic growth.
They emphasised India should not miss the opportunity to adopt clean technologies while being on the growth path.
"Nuclear (energy) is one of the many options we have," Ramesh said. Narain said India needed something similar to what happened in Delhi in 2000, when CNG was introduced to replace diesel in public vehicles.
Both agree that India should target long-term advantages it will have by protecting its biodiversity.
Ramesh quoted a study by Cambridge economist Partha Dasgupta, who showed negative per capita impact on Indian GDP if the loss to natural resources was considered during 1970-2000.
Education equals leadership
Education was identified as the weapon India needs to sharpen to emerge as a global leader.
Human resource development minister Kapil Sibal and former Kellogg School of Management dean Dipak Jain stressed the imbalance between jobs and education.
The developed west – especially the US – has trained human resources but few jobs while India has the jobs but inadequate trained professionals, Sibal pointed out.
"That imbalance needs to be corrected," Sibal said.
India has a gross enrolment ratio (GER) of 12.4% in higher education, as compared to a global average of 25% and an average of 60% in the developed world. Sibal has set a target of 30% GER for 2020.
'Happiness is from within'
At the opening session of the Summit, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, delivered a simple and powerful message on the need to concentrate on our "inner wealth" to find happiness. He said it was becoming increasingly important in our stress-laden, competition-driven urban lives.
He said prayers help believers deal with stress. It develops the part of the brain that dwells on compassion. But even non-believers need to find a "deeper understanding of the function of emotions" by focusing on the effort "scientifically, through lived experiences".
He pointed out that the Buddha arrived at his views on life — which were non-theistic — through his own experiences.
However, the Dalai Lama said that for community uplift "the effect of prayers and meditation is limited". For that we need more "action".
So, in strife-torn areas such as the Naxal-affected districts "you need to work more on health and education", he said, pointing towards the gathered delegates.