Sustaining growth, combating inflation top priority: President

New Delhi, February 21 (PTI): Combating inflation and sustaining growth momentum may be the top priority, but the government on Monday said it would strive to push economic reforms to encourage foreign and private sector investments in the economy.  “The Indian economy continues to be on a trajectory of high growth despite an adverse global environment... However, there is no room for complacency,” President Pratibha Patil said in her address to Parliament that marked the beginning of the Budget session.
The top priority of the government, she said, would include combating high prices especially of food items and sustaining momentum of economic growth. To achieve this twin objective, she said “we have strived to make the domestic environment more conducive to investment, encouraging public as well as private investment, and domestic as well as foreign investment, particularly FDI. “We have to maintain the momentum for reforms on a wide front,” Ms. Patil said. Referring to the high inflation during the past one year, the President said “my government is deeply concerned over the adverse impact of inflation on the aam aadmi (common man) and the threat it poses to the growth momentum.”
While the food inflation had touched 18.32 per cent in December, 2010 before moderating to over 11 per cent this month, the overall inflation still hovers above eight per cent as against the comfort level of 5—6 per cent. The economic growth, however, is expected to be 8.6 per cent for the current fiscal, up from eight per cent a year ago.
Tackling corruption
Against the backdrop of a series of scams that has hit the government, the President said, “Our citizens deserve good governance; it is their entitlement and our obligation.  “My government stands committed to improving the quality of governance and enhancing transparency, probity and integrity in public life.” Outlining five “foremost” priorities of the government, the President said it will “address frontally the concern regarding lack of probity and integrity in public life.”
She noted that a Group of Ministers (GoM) was considering all measures, including legislative and administrative, to tackle corruption and improve transparency. The Group will consider issues relating to the formulation of a public procurement policy and enunciation of public procurement standards, review and abolition of discretionary powers enjoyed by ministers.
Black money issue
Touching upon the raging controversy of black money stashed abroad in secret accounts, the President said the issue has attracted a lot of attention in the recent past.  “My government will spare no effort in bringing back to India what belongs to it and bring the guilty to book,” she asserted. Ms. Patil said the government “fully shares the concern about the ill-effects of black money whether generated by evasion of taxes on income earned legitimately or through illegal activities.
“My government stands committed to tackling the menace frontally. It requires diligent, sustained effort by all law enforcement agencies, including those of State governments,” she said. The President said the government has taken many steps to strengthen the legal framework, build new institutions and improve capacity to tackle this problem. A multi—disciplinary study has been commissioned to go into its ramifications for national security and recommend a suitable framework to tackle it. The government is also working closely with the international community, especially through the G-20, to expedite the process of identification and recovery of such money, she said.