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Efforts on to make food affordable: PM

india Updated: Nov 17, 2007 14:56 IST
Manmohan Singh

The government on Saturday said price rise in certain essential commodities was in line with the global trend, but it would work towards making food items available to the poor at affordable cost.

"I am aware that many of you are concerned about the prices of certain essential commodities. To some extent, we will get some relief from the beneficial effects of our initiatives to increase agricultural output.

"However, we must keep in mind that global prices of basic food commodities have seen a rapid rise for a variety of factors. We do not have any control of these factors," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at a day-long AICC session in New Delhi.

He, however, lauded the government's efforts to keep inflation under control in the range of 3-4 per cent despite global crude oil prices nearing 100 dollar a barrel-mark.

"When our government came into office, the prices of crude oil was about 35 dollar a barrel. It has now reached almost 100 dollar per barrel. "Global prices of foodgrains, pulses and edible oil have seen a sharp rise. However, it has been our endeavour to shield the poor and vulnerable sections from the effects of this rise and we have been quite successful in this regard," Singh said.

The government has done a lot in the last three and half years and the main achievement of the UPA alliance has been that economic growth has averaged around nine per cent per annum, Singh said, adding: "This growth rate is significant because in the absence of economic growth, we would not be able to deliver on our promises on all other fronts."

Singh singled out Finance Minister P Chidambaram for praise for steering the economy toward high growth. The government has managed to spend more on all development programmes, thanks only to the rapid economic expansion witnessed in the last three years, Singh said.

"So far, the UPA government has presented four budgets, and it is a matter of pride that our expenditures on most development programmes have more than doubled on an average in this period. The secret behind this massive expansion in financial outlays is the rapid economic growth that we have managed to bring about," the Prime Minister said.

The economic growth was not restricted to a few regions or a few sectors. Agriculture is growing at an annual rate of four per cent and the manufacturing sector is growing at an impressive annual rate of 10 per cent, much higher than what it was a decade ago.

Singh said the beneficial effect of this growth pattern is that poverty figures are declining in most parts of the country.
"I am confident that if we continue to keep the nation on this growth path, it will be possible to reduce poverty to a single digit figure within the next decade," Singh said, adding that if agriculture sector continued to maintain the same rate of growth, India would be able to see a revolutionary change in the rural areas.

In order to boost agricultural production, Singh said the government has started National Food Security Mission and National Krishi Vikas Yojna with an outlay of Rs 35,000 crore.

The Minimum Support Price (MSP) for wheat and rice has been increased substantially on a scale never done before and the flow of credit to farmers has been more than doubled.

"In the coming weeks, we plan to take further steps to improve the condition of farmers," he said.