Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today pitched for difficult reform measures at the National Development Council (NDC) meeting, which saw the average 12th Plan gross domestic product (GDP) growth target scaled down to eight per cent from the earlier estimate of 9-9.5 per cent. Singh dubbed even the revised target “ambitious” and warned higher growth would not be delivered with a “business-as-usual” approach.
The total gross budgetary support in the 12th Plan document was raised to Rs 35,68,626 crore — a 124.53 per cent rise over that in the 11th Plan.
Singh also called for a phased reduction in energy subsidies and an early implementation of the Goods and Services Tax.
The meeting also became a platform for political shadow-boxing, with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa staging a walkout, citing inadequate time given to her; and her counterpart in Gujarat, Narendra Modi, talking about a credibility crisis.
Some CMs questioned the government’s handling of the economy, besides highlighting that a fuel shortage was affecting power plants. In her speech, Jayalalithaa said growth slowdown was a result of the Centre’s poor macroeconomic management.
The issue of women’s safety, against the backdrop of the recent gang rape in Delhi and the protests it led to, also reverberated, with Singh calling for action at Central and state levels.
Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said the growth rate could at best be eight per cent, given a weak global economic recovery and that India’s 2012-13 growth was likely to be 5.7-5.9 per cent.
The prime minister pointed out that the average growth rate of the five poorest states exceeded the national average for the first time in any Plan period.
On the Aadhaar-based cash transfer scheme, he said: “This is an innovative step which will be watched by the entire global development community. The Centre and states must work together to make it a success.”
Finance Minister P Chidambaram said some measures might cause immediate pain but were needed to narrow fiscal deficit to three per cent in three years.
The PM thanked states for raising the fuel shortage issue and asked the Planning Commission to review the situation and give a report within three weeks.