New Delhi: The National Development Council (NDC) on Saturday fixed 9 per cent growth target with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking political parties to ensure that long-term goals do not become "hostage" to short-term interests.

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After a day-long deliberations during which non-UPA states attacked the Central government over various issues, Singh said, the Commission will take note of their suggestions while drafting the 12th Plan (2012-17).

The National Development Council (NDC), which met here to discuss the Approach Paper for the 12th Plan, was attended by senior Central ministers and state chief ministers.
    
9 percent growth target

Referring to the 9 percent growth target during the next, Plan, Singh said, "it is relevant to ask whether this is feasible since the economy is currently slowing down".  However, he added, the slowdown should be seen as a short-term phenomenon reflecting highly unsettled conditions in the world economy.

Growth rates, he added, were being revised downwards in all the countries for the current year.

"In setting target for the 12th Plan we must look at longer term potential, assuming that the immediate short-term problems will be overcome. I have absolutely no doubt that our country's longer term prospects are very good", he said.

Indian economy, which recorded a growth rate of 8.5 percent in 2010-11, is expected to moderate to about8 percent during the current fiscal. During the first quarter of the current fiscal the growth slipped to 7.7 percent from 8.8 percent a year ago.

Pointing out the world is going through a major realignment of economic power and emerging markets are becoming important, Singh said "Our policies in the 12th Five Year Plan must therefore be shaped to take full advantage of these emerging possibilities".

He said that although much of the growth is driven by the private sector, the government has a very large role to play in providing a policy environment to encourage farmers and entrepreneurs.

"This includes an environment of macro-economic stability, efficient functioning markets... a sound financial system for allocating financial resources, good governance with transparency and effective enforcement of the rule of law," Singh added.

He further said the government has a very big role to play in developing the infrastructure needed in both rural and urban areas to support broad and inclusive growth.

Nation must guard against negativism

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed concern over the slowing economy but emphasised that the nation must guard against the mood of negativism.

"Without such services, effective inclusion is simply not possible," the Prime Minister said. Pointing out that it was the collective responsibility to reverse the mood of negativism, he said, "the future is what we make of it.
 
Nothing is ordained or pre-determined. India can rise, but India can also falter. We live in a world of rising and faltering economies. "We can either become victims of negativism, criticizing ourselves all the way, or work together to put ourselves firmly in the group of rising economies. Both optimism and pessimism have an infectious quality," he added.

"The current slowdown is a matter of concern... We must guard against the mood of negativism that seems to have gripped the country," Singh added.

Development of infrastructure

The Prime Minister said special emphasis would have to be made in the 12th Plan for development of infrastructure in Jammu and Kashmir, North East region and Left wing extremism affected areas.

He said special programmes would have to be devised to provide livelihood support to the poor and vulnerable sections and increase their earning capabilities.

Every citizen, Singh emphasised should have access to essential public services of "acceptable quality" in areas like, health, education, provision of safe drinking water and sanitation.

Conflict between politics, development

Referring to the issue of conflict between politics and development issues, Singh said, managing this "effectively is crucial if India is to achieve her full development potential.

"Our democracy, our civil society and our free press, all face a revolution of rising expectations. This is to some extent caused by the visible success achieved in some areas, which has made people realise what is possible and therefore, they demand a fair share of benefits in terms of the new opportunities created," he added.

Noting that tidal wave of rising expectations put tremendous pressure on the government, Singh said, "development also requires time and patience for policies to have an impact. It also requires co-operation."

The political parties, he added, should strike a balance between "maintaining adversarial political positions on many issues, while also co-operating to advance a shared longer term national agenda. This balance is not easy to strike."

At times like these, Singh emphasised, "it is of vital importance that each of our democratic institutions – the executive, the judiciary, Parliament and State Legislatures, the various constitutional and regulatory authorities, understand what their due role is, and play that due role in a constructive manner."

As the nation enters the 12th Plan, which begins on April 1, 2012, Singh said, "both the Central and State Governments should review what they are doing in each of these areas, and strengthen policies wherever necessary.

"As we in government seek to create the foundations for higher investment, higher employment and growth, we must be particularly mindful of the impact of our policies and politics on public and private investor sentiment," he added.

During the last seven years of the UPA rule the economy has grown by 8.5 percent, Singh said, adding, "India is now regarded one of the fastest growing emerging markets. What is particularly encouraging is that many states, including some that grew relatively slowly in earlier years, have shown acceleration in growth performance."

Singh, however, admitted that the growth has not been as inclusive as it should have been.

"A criticism often advanced is that while we have delivered high growth, we have not done nearly as well on inclusiveness. I believe there is some truth in this criticism, in the sense that we should have done better", the Prime Minister said.

Agriculture, social sector

Attributing higher farm sector growth to combined efforts of Centre and states, Singh said, "faster agricultural growth, combined with the implementation of MGNREGA, has produced an impressive increase in rural wages in real terms."

Further, the PM said agriculture is likely to clock a growth rate of 3.5 percent in the 11th Plan, up from 2.2 percent in the 10th Plan.

On education, he said, the drop-out rates has started falling and the next big challenge is to improve the quality of education and the employability of the educated.

As regards the health sector, Singh said, although the National Rural Health Mission, which took off only in 2007, has begun to address the large gaps in health infrastructure, "much remains to be done".

He further said that efforts to improve infrastructure in urban and rural areas would have to continue and at the same time efforts would have to continue to prevent degradation of the land and water which adversely affects the livelihood of millions of small and marginal farmers who live on the edge of subsistence.

Cong dismisses criticism of Jaya, Modi

Meanwhile, Congress dismissed the criticism of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and her Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi that the Centre was attempting to weaken the states, saying such a thing was not possible under existing mechanisms.

"There are persons who are in the habit of using extreme phraseology. Chief Minister Jayalalitha is holding a Constitutional post. Should we remind her that there is a
Finance Commission to look into these things (allocation of funds to states).

"I do not think it is possible to practice discrimination, which some Chief Ministers are in the habit of dreaming of simply because they are in the opposition. It is not appropriate to bring politics into everything," Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said.

(JPN/Agencies)