New York, Sep 26: Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram has said that the country has taken major initiatives in agriculture and rural development, in industry and urban development, in infrastructure and services, and in education and healthcare, aimed at promoting inclusive growth.
He said this at the round table on 'Poverty and Hunger' during the high-level event on the Millennium Development Goals convened by the Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly at the United Nations Ban Ki-moon in New York on Thursday, Sep 25. During his intervention, the Finance Minister expressed concern that in sub-Saharan Africa 41.1 per cent of people were still living in extreme poverty in 2004 and the poverty gap ratio was the highest in the world.
He pointed out that around 8.9 percent growth rate for the past four years has allowed India to make considerable progress in the eradication of extreme poverty.
Though the country still has more than a quarter of population surviving on less than one dollar a day, it recognizes that economic growth must be socially inclusive and regionally balanced, Chidambaram added.
He mentioned that the Government is investing huge sums in rural infrastructure through schemes like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and Bharat Nirman.
On an argument that blamed large developing countries' over-consumption for increased food costs, Chidambaram said: "Nothing could be further from the truth. Developing countries continue to have high child malnutrition levels and still need to battle chronic hunger. In India, in-fact, this is a major issue and our Eleventh Five Year Plan aims at reduction in malnutrition among children of age group 0-3 to half from its present levels."
To prevent food shortages and continuing hunger in the developing world in particular, there is a need for a quantum leap in agricultural productivity, food grain output and farm incomes in the developing countries, he added
He expressed confidence that the world has enough resources and ability to cope with this crisis.
Despite many developed countries having increased their Official Development Assistance (ODA), the imperative to reach the goal of 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income on an urgent basis cannot be overstated, he further said. Welcoming the initiative of the UN and other agencies, he urged for an urgent and collective global partnership to translate commitment into concrete action in the interest of world's future generations.