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Farm sector to get top priority: PM

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh calls for revitalising the agriculture sector in the 11th five year plan (2007-12). HT Correspondent reports.

india Updated: Dec 09, 2006 19:21 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday called for "revitalising" the agriculture sector and sought the support of state governments for 'difficult' policy changes aimed at putting the economy into a growth orbit of 9 per cent during the 11th five year plan (2007-12).

The approach paper to the 11th five year plan, which was approved by the National Development Council (NDC) here, has set a target of achieving an average growth rate of the gross domestic product (GDP) of 9 per cent during the five year period.

"This ( 9 per cent) is ambitious no doubt, but feasible", Singh said adding: "But this optimism has to be sustained with competent, effective policies and programmes”, Singh said inaugurating the 52nd meeting of the NDC.

The prime minister said that the 11th plan must give top priority to “redressing the weaknesses in the agriculture sector".

“We cannot expect inclusive growth if we do not revitalise our agriculture. It is important to recognise that the problem is not just distributional, with the better off farmers doing well while the small farmers and landless face hardships. Though the weaker groups clearly face more difficulties and need special attention, agriculture has a whole is in the midst of crisis. We should therefore focus on achieving higher productivity and incomes for all farmers in both crop and non-crop agriculture", he said.

Singh said that inflation has "presented a problem recently", but added the government was determined to control it within the five per cent level.

"We are determined to control it within the 5 per cent level", and added that "the Plan must give top priority to redressing the weaknesses in the agriculture sector... We cannot expect inclusive growth if we do not revitalise agriculture."

"The world has a very favourable assessment of our prospects and this is reflected in the fact that FDI flows are buoyant," he said.

The Prime Minister underlined the need for improving the state of general infrastructure in the country and particularly singled out the power sector that required immediate focus.

“As a country, we are not investing as much as we should in the power sector. It is important to recognise that public private partnerships cannot be a solution if the power sector is financially unviable", he said.

Singh, however, cautioned that gross budgetary support (GBS) should not come at the "cost of fiscal prudence and stability. He said that 2.5 percentage point increase in GBS both by the states and the Centre was perhaps the "smallest increase that will accommodate ambitious agenda we have for public investment in agriculture, infrastructure and the social sector."

In this context he appealed for the chief ministers support saying, "a critical issue we have to face relates to the sharing of responsibilities between the Centre and the states."

Singh also called adopting the public-private-partnership (PPP) model for improving healthcare services in the country.

"Public-private partnership in higher level health care also needs serious consideration, especially in view of our resource constraints," he said. "We should also ensure that functioning of the public sector health system improves," the Prime Minister said.

First Published: Dec 09, 2006 14:08 IST