As you are all aware, our economy has slowed down considerably in the last two years. Growth in this financial year will be much below the average growth of eight per cent — that we have achieved in the last decade. Factors causing this slowdown lie both outside and within our country. The finance minister has dealt with the causal factors in some detail. I can, therefore, be brief in my remarks on this subject. It is imperative that we do everything possible to reverse this trend, and the government has made concerted and serious efforts in recent months to revive investment and growth.
At the Central government level, efforts are being made to streamline the process of clearance of investment proposals, paying particular attention to clearances from the environment and forest angles as well as towards removal of infrastructural bottlenecks. However, the climate for investment is also affected by the activities of state governments. Factors like the state of law and order, and how easy or difficult it is to acquire land and obtain electricity connections have an important influence on the climate for investment.
Policy measures announced in the current year have generated optimism, which is reflected in an upturn in the Business Expectations Index for the October-December quarter, the Purchasing Managers’ Index in October- December and buoyancy in capital markets. Internal accruals of the corporate sector, necessary for a pick-up in investment, have also started improving. There has been a moderation in core inflation. These factors point towards recovery in the gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the second half of the current year.
A high level of fiscal deficit has been a specific cause of worry for us in the recent time. Our government has broadly accepted the recommendations of the Kelkar Committee, which was appointed to recommend a road map for fiscal consolidation. We intend to contain the fiscal deficit for the current year at 5.3 per cent of GDP, and reduce it to 4.8 per cent in the next year. The fiscal deficit is targeted to be reduced by 0.6 percentage points each year thereafter. We have also taken steps to bridge the infrastructure deficit in areas such as railways, roads, airports, ports irrigation, and water-supply, which have come under additional stress because of our rapid economic growth in the last decade. These include the setting up of the Cabinet Committee on Investments to expedite decisions on approvals and clearances for implementation of major projects.
The year 2012 saw clear signs of improvement in the internal security situation, including in Jammu and Kashmir, the Northeast and Left-wing extremism-affected areas. Before I proceed further on security issues, let me say I have paid particular attention to the remarks of the governors of Jammu and Kashmir and Northeastern states on security issues. Jammu and Kashmir Governor Vohra has made some suggestions for more coherent action on the part of security agencies. Similarly, there have been suggestions from Arunachal Pradesh Governor General J J Singh about border roads, porter tracks and suspension bridges. His suggestion to pay adequate attention to the improvement of living conditions in border villages is also well taken. He as well as other governors have suggested strengthening of the Border Roads Organisation and improving infrastructure in our border areas. The suggestion of the governor of Assam and some other governors of Northeastern states to accelerate the pace of fencing along the Indo-Bangladesh border has merit. I am sure my esteemed colleagues, Defence Minister A K Antony and Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde will have all such suggestions on security issues examined to see what action is possible on them...
Our strategy for dealing with the menace of Left-wing extremism is two-pronged. Even as we have intensified operations against the extremists, we have also endeavoured to bridge the development and governance deficit in the Left-wing extremism-affected area, many of which have predominantly tribal populations. The need for greater inter-state coordination in operations against Left-wing extremists was emphasised by Andhra Pradesh Governor E S L Narasimhan. One cannot agree more with him.
The Integrated Action Plan for 82 select and backward districts, most of which are affected by Left-wing extremism, is beginning to show encouraging results. Road connectivity in these districts is also being improved. We have also taken steps to streamline the process for vesting of forest rights under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act to the entitled people.
Owing to all these efforts, the geographical spread of the menace of Left-wing extremism has shown a shrinking trend. Further, the number of incidents of Left-wing extremist violence in 2012 showed perceptible decline compared with the previous year. However, much more remains to be done, and we will make all efforts to accomplish what we still have to do. As has been pointed out by the governor of Assam, the expansion of Maoist activities to upper and lower Assam is worrisome.
Rajasthan Governor Margaret Alva and Nagaland Governor Nikhil Kumar have advised caution in going ahead with the Direct Benefits Transfer Scheme. Their concern is about inadequate coverage under Aadhaar and unsatisfactory coordination with the state governments, respectively. I am sure the finance minister, deputy chairman, Planning Commission and Nandan Nilekani have taken note of these concerns and will take action to address them.
Narasimhan has emphasised the need for more efficient use of scarce resources by concentrating them on fewer programmes, and better targeting of beneficiaries. I am happy to inform that the government is actively considering reduction in the number of centrally sponsored schemes, so as to make them more focused and useful.