Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday likened the Indian economy to the slow but steady tortoise, giving an update on how his government was tackling the twin issues of soaring inflation and lower industrial growth.
"Slow and steady wins the race," the prime minister said, as who's who of India Inc listened attentively at the annual meeting of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry at the packed Vigyan Bhavan official conference complex here.
"The Indian tortoise will win the race against the many Asian hares!" he beamed. "Indian economy will continue to grow at 8 percent and above and will emerge as one of the growth engines for the world economy."
The prime minister, however, cautioned that unrelenting rise in crude oil prices was threatening to disrupt the development process of developing countries that were dependent on imports.
"It can have adverse consequences for the global war against poverty."
His observation came in the wake of India's annual inflation rate touching a new high of 8.1 percent for week ended May 17, even as industrial production logged just three percent growth in March against 14.8 percent in the same month of 2007.
The prime minister, nevertheless, said the steady acceleration of growth from an average of 3.5 percent in 1950-1980, 5.5 percent in 1980-2000, to nearly 9 per cent since 2004 was testimony to the wisdom of the hare and tortoise story.
“There was no shortage of critics - of Cassandras of gloom and doom. Today we all derive satisfaction and take pride in the achievements of our economy and in the fact that people of India have risen to the challenge of globalisation in the last two decades in a handsome manner,” he said.
India economy is in direct competition with that of China that has been growing at over 10 percent. The growth in Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam and South Korea has also been robust, which Manmohan Singh apparently referred to as the "Asian hares".
"Many sectors of our economy are today stronger and more competitive than ever before," he said. "This is why despite the global slowdown and the many global challenges we face, our economy is still able to deliver close to 8 percent growth."
Though Singh exuded confidence that India would be able to "sustain the growth process and overcome the challenges" the country was facing due to global slowdown, he cautioned against unhindered rise in oil and commodity price.
"I am concerned about the impact of rising oil prices, rising commodity prices and the growing threat of protectionism from developed economies," he said and added that surging crude prices could disrupt the global war against poverty.
Referring to the phenomenal rise in food prices, the prime minister said there was a need of new "global compact so that rising food prices do not threaten the process of global integration".
He said the new global agenda must include increased investment in agriculture and increased emphasis on new technologies to bring about a quantum jump in farm productivity.
In the previous fiscal, the Indian agriculture sector recorded a 4.5 per cent growth rate.
The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) says global price rise for most of the staple food have fuelled 18 percent food price inflation in China, 13 percent in Indonesia and Pakistan and 10 per cent or more in Latin America, Russia and India.