Manmohan Singh’s foreword in UPA’s report card


New Delhi : Prime Minister Manmohan Singh unveiled a report card on three years of United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to people Wednesday. Following is his foreword to the report card:

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The 'Report to the People', published every year by our government, has set a new benchmark for accountability in governance. This comprehensive report, listing all the policies adopted, projects launched and programmes implemented is a unique demonstration of our commitment to being accountable.

In a democracy, people have a right to know what their government is doing in fulfilment of its mandate. It is my sincere hope that the contents of this report are widely disseminated and are discussed by our people.

This year's 'Report to the People', putting together initiatives taken since May 2004 when our government took charge, shows that the policy agenda set out by the constituents, allies and supporting parties of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP) has been substantially implemented.

It is my sincere hope and firm belief that by the end of our tenure in government we would have delivered more than we had promised.

The main objective of our government in the past three years has been to ensure that, while sustaining higher rates of economic growth, the improved performance of the economy contributes to employment generation, poverty reduction and human development.

In this 60th year of our Independence, the country should have the satisfaction of recording for the fifth year in succession a rate of economic growth of over 8.5 percent. The recent acceleration of growth to 9 percent has been made possible by an unprecedented increase in the rate of investment, which is at an all-time high of around 35 percent of national income. Higher rates of investment and growth have helped generate employment and reduce poverty.

However, our government recognizes that high national income growth alone does not address the challenge of employment promotion, poverty reduction and balanced regional development. Nor does growth in itself improve human development.

The NCPM is based on the recognition that economic growth must be socially inclusive and regionally balanced. This has been the guiding principle of our government's policies in the past three years.

Taken together, all the major initiatives of our government, in agriculture and rural development, in industry and urban development, in infrastructure and services, in education and health care and in every other facet of life, are aimed at promoting 'inclusive growth'.

The key components of our strategy of inclusive growth have been to:
(a) Step up investment in rural areas, in rural infrastructure and agriculture (b) Increase credit availability to farmers and offer them remunerative prices for their crops
(c) Increase rural employment, providing a unique social safety net in the shape of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme
(d) Increase public spending on education and health care, including strengthening the mid-day meal programme and offering scholarships to the needy (e) Invest in urban renewal, improving the quality of life for the urban poor (f) Socially, economically and educationally empower scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, other backward classes, minorities, women and children
(g) And ensure that, through public investment, the growth process spreads to backward regions and districts.

Our government has ensured a massive increase in public investment in the past three years, without reneging on our commitment to fiscal discipline. Through Bharat Nirman, we expect to invest Rs.1,74,000 crore (Rs.1,740 billion) in rural roads, rural housing, rural drinking water supply, irrigation, rural electrification and rural telecommunications.

We have nearly trebled the budgetary allocation for education in three years from around Rs.12,000 crore (Rs.120 billion) in 2003-04 to over Rs.32,000 crore (Rs.320 billion) in 2007-08. This is an unprecedented increase in public spending on education in India.

The allocation for health and family welfare has been more than doubled during these three years, from Rs.7,620 crore (Rs.76.2 billion) in 2003-04 to Rs.17,560 crore (175.6 billion) in 2007-08. In agriculture and rural development, funding has been stepped up from around Rs.20,000 crore (Rs.200 billion) in 2003-04 to over Rs.60,000 crore (Rs.600 billion) in 2007-08.

Apart from increased public investment in rural infrastructure through Bharat Nirman, our government has helped the agricultural sector by doubling farm credit within two years and sustaining this momentum by investing in agriculture.

We have once again helped shift the terms of trade in favour of agriculture by raising procurement prices for wheat and rice and also ensuring that farmers receive remunerative prices for all crops. Our farming community has certainly benefited from better prices for their produce. This too is an aspect of making growth more inclusive.

In the last year, the growth processes we have unleashed have put some pressure on prices. We have been faced with galloping demand for many products and this has resulted in inflation becoming a cause for concern, particularly in the case of some essential commodities.

This has been compounded by a shortfall in production of these commodities. We have taken credible steps to control inflation and will continue to be vigilant on this front so that the poor and vulnerable sections of society do not suffer unduly. We have made arrangements to augment supplies wherever feasible and hope to keep prices in check. All reasonable measures will be adopted to accelerate the tempo of agricultural production and to strengthen the public distribution system.

The magnitude of increase in spending on the social sectors and rural development is indeed extraordinary. Through such massive fiscal support, undertaken even as we have reduced the fiscal and revenue deficits and improved public finances, we have spread the benefits of growth more widely. This is an important aspect of our strategy of inclusive growth. But it is by no means the only aspect.

Inclusive growth also means empowering the disadvantaged. This we have done through a variety of legislative interventions. We have empowered women, empowered tribals and dalits, empowered the minorities and other backward classes. We have vastly increased student scholarships and expanded the scope of the mid-day meal programme.

Over twelve crore (120 million) children are getting a nutritious meal everyday and this in itself would contribute to reducing malnutrition. A new 15-Point Programme has been introduced for the welfare of minorities, the results of which would flow in years to come. It is important that this important section of the population is not left behind while the rest of the country moves ahead rapidly on the development trajectory.

A landmark legislation has been passed giving tribals a right to own lands in forest areas, areas which have been under their possession for ages. This legislation would go a long way in providing a sense of security to them.

The National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme is a key element of our strategy of inclusive growth. It is a unique programme aimed at providing a social safety net to the poor, now being implemented in 330 districts across the country. Most of these are in the more backward regions.

As economic growth spreads to newer regions, especially in northern, central and north-eastern India, the growth process will help reduce poverty in the most backward regions of the country. The Backward Regions Grant Fund, with an annual allocation of Rs.5,800 crore (Rs.58 billion) for 250 backward districts, is aimed at stepping up investment in these regions.

In the north-east, several steps have been taken to accelerate economic growth and improve social and economic infrastructure. Improving connectivity is the key. The Special Accelerated Road Development Programme for the North-East (SARDP-NE) is an important initiative to improve connectivity to the region and thereby, bring it within the mainstream growth process of the national economy.

A comprehensive new industrial policy has been approved for the North East which will hopefully, accelerate investment in the region and help this region realise its hidden potential.

Another region which has been receiving focused attention is Jammu & Kashmir. A state which has been distressed by terrorism for many years has seen a healing touch over the last few years. While working for the accelerated development of the state through improvements in infrastructure, tourism facilities and educational and health services, we have also been effectively engaging with as many political and other groups as possible to understand the underlying causes of dissatisfaction. The roundtable series of conferences has thrown light on some of the issues and we are working collectively to find lasting solutions to the problems of the state.

This strategy of inclusive growth combines empowerment with entitlement and investment. Education empowers, improved health care empowers, employment guarantee entitles, fulfilling quota obligations entitles. Through a combination of offering entitlement, ensuring empowerment and stepping up public investment, our government has sought to make the growth process more inclusive.

Our government has also worked to create a more supportive external environment for India's economic development. We have improved our relations with all major powers and all our neighbours. The recently held Summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) symbolizes the change in India's regional and global standing.

The summit was marked by a new spirit of regional cooperation. The New Delhi Summit imparted a new momentum to SAARC, based on a wider agenda of cooperation. Afghanistan's membership of SAARC and the presence of major powers as observers made the Summit truly historic. We have been able to engage Pakistan in a meaningful and constructive dialogue that has the potential to bring peace and prosperity to our region as a whole.

Our Government has repeatedly demonstrated its commitment and willingness to work cooperatively with all our neighbours. Our participation in the East Asian Summit and our decision to enter into a free trade agreement with ASEAN symbolize our renewed engagement of East and South-east Asia through our 'Look East Policy'.

When tsunami hit our region, we not only managed to deal with the challenge on our own but also were able to immediately render assistance to neighbouring countries. We have also been able to step up our economic engagement with countries of the Persian Gulf and reinforce our traditionally good relations with the Arab world.

Our historic relations with Africa have been given a renewed focus and the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) summits have now become a regular feature of our engagement with these two important nations. Our relations with China, Japan, Russia and the European Union have been strengthened. We have been able to outline the guiding principles for the settlement of our border dispute with China.

We have been able to secure very valuable economic assistance from Japan, including for the construction of a dedicated rail freight corridor between Mumbai and Kolkata via Delhi and the development of an industrial corridor alongside it between Mumbai and Delhi.

We have widened the range and deepened the scope of India-US relations. The agreement to enter into cooperation in civil nuclear energy with the United States and the on-going negotiations with the Nuclear Suppliers Group will mark a turning point in our developmental history. The access to high technology and to nuclear energy that this agreement will enable will further boost our development prospects.

These are all important gains for our foreign policy. Together they have made the global environment more secure for us. Never before has the external political and economic environment been more benign and supportive of our developmental aspirations. The world wants India to do well and it is up to us to take up the challenge and opportunity at hand.

Development is not just a matter of quantitative growth, it entails a qualitative change in mindsets and in aspirations. It requires political stability and social cohesion. It requires an environment in which the full creativity of our people can find its free expression.

Our government is committed to providing such an environment for inclusive and accelerated growth and social progress within the framework of a secular and liberal democracy.

I hope this report inspires our people to greater effort. There is much we have done in these three years, but much more that we need to do to win the war against poverty, ignorance and disease, and the fight against extremism, communalism and terrorism. We have a long unfinished agenda to improve the quality of delivery systems for basic services such as education and health care.

Simultaneously every citizen must work harder, work with greater dedication and commitment, and we must all work together, united as a nation. I urge every citizen to read this Report and be better informed about what the United Progressive Alliance has done in guiding our country towards its tryst with destiny. In this 60th year of our Independence let us all resolve to build a new India, a caring India."