New Delhi, Oct 17 (IANS) Aiming to make India a key player in the global economy, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday set a growth target of 10 percent for the 11th five-year plan (2007-2012) and stressed the need to 'liberate millions' from poverty.
Addressing a full meeting of the Planning Commission, Manmohan Singh said: 'The 11th plan is going to be a historic plan in many ways. This is the first time since the planning process began that we will be aiming for a growth rate of 10 percent in the final years of the plan.
'In achieving this growth rate, we would be finally emerging into the front ranks of fast growing developing countries,' he said.
Stressing the social aspect of economic development, the prime minister added: 'By ensuring that the growth is inclusive, the 11th plan would set our economy on a growth path which would finally liberate millions of our countrymen from the perennial scourges of poverty, ignorance and disease.'
To meet the objective of inclusiveness Manmohan Singh called on the planners to focus on agriculture, employment generation and infrastructure development.
'Our priorities are clear. Agriculture, irrigation and water resources, health, education, critical investment in rural infrastructure, and the essential public investment needs of general infrastructure, along with programmes for the upliftment of schedules castes and schedules tribes; these must have the first claim on resources. Other demands will have to be fitted within this resource availability,' he noted.
Summing up the current economic parameters, the prime minister said: 'The economy enters the 11th plan period with some important strengths. Growth has averaged 8 percent in the past three years. The savings rate is 29 percent of GDP (gross domestic product) and the investment rate is close to 31 percent of our GDP.
'Foreign direct investment flows are buoyant and increasing and India is becoming an increasingly attractive investment destination. The fiscal position has been continuously improving and the last budget estimates suggest that the combined deficit of the centre and states may come down to 7 percent in 2006-07.
'In spite of a sharp increase in international oil prices, inflation has been moderate and under check. The external position is quite comfortable, both on the current account deficit as well as in the foreign exchange reserves position.'
Emphasising that the 11th plan 'could not have expected a better start', the prime minister admitted that there were some 'serious weaknesses' too.
'Poverty is falling but not fast enough. The current consumption poverty rates of over 20 percent are simply not acceptable in this high growth scenario. As a result, large segments of our population are untouched by the rapid changes taking place in many parts of our economy.
'It is our collective responsibility to ensure that they become stakeholders in the growth processes underway. This is essential not only from an equity perspective but also for maintaining social and political harmony,' Manmohan Singh said.