Prez address signals more reforms, efforts to check inflation

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New Delhi, Feb 21 (PTI) Signalling that the forthcoming budget would give a vigorous push to economic reforms,President Pratibha Patil today said the government''s toppriority would be to check inflation without hurting growth.

"We have to maintain the momentum for reforms on a widefront," she said in her address to Parliament marking thebeginning of the Budget session.

The indication comes a week before the presentation ofthe General Budget for 2011-12 in the Lok Sabha on February28 by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

The top priority before the government continues to becombating inflation, sustaining growth momentum and encouragedomestic and foreign direct investment (FDI), she said whileoutlining the task ahead.

"The Indian economy continues to be on a trajectory ofhigh growth despite an adverse global environment... However,there is no room for complacency," she said while making acase for wider push to economic reforms.

To achieve this twin objective, she said "we havestrived to make the domestic environment more conducive toinvestment, encouraging public as well as private investment,and domestic as well as foreign investment, particularly FDI.

Referring to the high inflation during the past oneyear, the President said "my government is deeply concernedover the adverse impact of inflation on the aam aadmi (commonman) and the threat it poses to the growth momentum."

While the food inflation had touched 18.32 per cent inDecember, 2010, before moderating to over 11 per cent thismonth, the overall inflation still hovers above eight per centas against the comfort level of 5-6 per cent.

The economic growth, however, is expected to be 8.6per cent for the current fiscal, up from eight per cent a yearago.

To fight rising food prices, Patil said efforts must bemade to increase agricultural productivity. "The long termsolution lies in increasing productivity and production... theGovernment stands committed to ensuring that farmers getremunerative prices for their produce," she said.

However, to insulate poors from the impact of high foodprices, the government will soon bring Food Security Law tooffer highly subsidised foodgrains to every family below thepoverty line, Patil said.

"The states are being consulted (over Food Security Law)as the success of the programme hinges critically on theircommitment to reforms in the Public Distribution System(PDS)," she added.

Pointing out that infrastructure development wascritical to overall economic growth, she said private sectorwould need to play an active and bigger role in investmentsestimated to the tune of over Rs 40 lakh crore in the 12thFive Year Plan period (2012-2017). .

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