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Positive signals on economy front: Kalam

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The President, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, on his way to address the joint session of Parliament with the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, the Lok Sabha Speaker, Mr Somnath Chatterjee, and the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Mr Gulam Nabi Azad, in the Capital on Friday. — Kamal Narang

New Delhi , Feb. 25

THE President, Dr A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, today indicated that the Manmohan Singh Government's economic programme would emphasise heavily on providing a new vigour to rural India while simultaneously creating an enabling environment for industry to grow.

Addressing the joint session of Parliament on the opening day of the Budget session, the President pointed out that the major macro-economic indicators were robust and positive and that there was an air of optimism in the economy and the markets.

"My Government will pursue policies that will sustain this recovery and accelerate growth, moving forward on the twin roads of efficiency and equity, while maintaining a high degree of fiscal and financial discipline," Mr Kalam said.

Reiterating the Government's commitment to giving a "new deal to rural India," the President said this involved reversing the declining trend in investment in agriculture; stepping up credit flow to farmers; enhancing public investment in irrigation and wasteland development; increasing funds for agriculture research and extension; creating a `single market' for agriculture produce; investing in rural healthcare and education; promoting rural electrification and rural roads; setting up commodities futures markets and insuring against risk in farming and rural business.

Another key area for the Government was infrastructure. Pointing out that massive investment in infrastructure was necessary to achieve the objective of logging 7per cent to 8 per cent growth over the next decade, Dr Kalam called for increasing public and private investment in power, roads, railways, ports and inland waterways, civil aviation and housing.

"Our economy requires at least $150 billion worth of investment in the infrastructure sector over the next decade to catch up with out East Asian neighbours... The Government will encourage public-private partnership in all infrastructure projects," he said.

Special attention would also be given to development of urban infrastructure and to making towns and cities more liveable, the President said, adding that for a country where more than one third of the population lived in urban areas, it was necessary to focus on the task of providing world class infrastructure and access to basic amenities in towns and cities.

Dr Kalam particularly highlighted the problem of unemployment in the country and said the policies aimed at increasing investment and stepping up the growth rate of agriculture, manufacturing, infrastructure and the services sector would undoubtedly generate new employment opportunities. To take care of those likely to be left behind by development processes and to ensure that there was a safety net, the Government would come forward with a National Employment Guarantee Bill, he said.

In his address to members of Parliament, the President also focused on the Government's plan to provide healthcare, especially in rural areas, on improving the lot of weavers with a targeted programme called "two years of weavers" and on rural electrification in order to provide electricity to all villages in the country by 2009.

The President also covered areas of foreign policy, national security, economic development of North-East and Jammu and Kashmir and the issue of communal harmony in his presentation before the members.

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