New Delhi, Dec 19 (UNI) Exuding confidence that the economic growth can be raised to ten per cent in the near future, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today called for ensuring rapid reduction in poverty, accelerating the pace of industrialisation and employment generation, and bringing "measurable" benefits to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, minorities and other excluded groups.
In his inaugural address at the 54th meeting of the National Development Council here, the Prime Minister also expressed serious concern on other issues of equity, including the growing inter-regional inequalities and the urban-rural divide.
"Equity is the foundation on which our democratic polity has to rest and thrive. It is the basis on which our citizens develop a sense of ownership of the State and its organs. Inequity can lead to large scale migration, disaffection and discord", he said.
"Development is a process that sould not divide but should unite.
All of us need to zero in on the basic task of development and work with a new sense of direction and a new sense of focus," Dr Singh said.
The Prime Minister identified two areas which States need to give particular attention to. One was on working with the Centre to ensure better targetting of subsidies to the genuinely needy while the other was on cutting down losses in the power sector.
Emphasising the need for creating an environment that would attract investments in power by public and private sectors to reduce power shortages, Dr Singh set the target of bringing down Aggregate Technical and Commercial (AT &C) losses to 15 per cent in two years, which alone could ensure financial health of the electricity agencies.
"I urge everyone to realise that frittering away public resources into unproductive expenditure will result in fewer schools, fewer hospitals, fewer scholarships, lower public investment in agriculture and poorer infrastructure. It is certainly a recipe for ensuring that the development divide is not bridged", he said.
The Prime Minister said as the country enters the Eleventh Plan, the prospects on the growth front were encouraging. Growth has averaged close to nine per cent per annum in the last three years of the Plan, thus making up for the slow start in the the first two years. "Such a good growth performance is unprecedented and leads us to wonder whether we have actually scaled another invisible barrier and placed the economy on a high growth path", he said.
In his unusually long speech, the Prime Minister dwelt at length on the priority areas of the Eleventh Plan, namely, agriculture, education and health. He spoke about the clouds on global financial markets and the impact of slowdown of the US economy on India.