Poor economic growth in India in 2013 derailed Planning Commission’s ambitious target of 8 per cent for the 12th Plan,which the nation’s official think-tank will revise downwards in the new year as part of its mid-term review exercise.
Attributing lower-than-expected economic growth to global factors,Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said 12th Plan’s target could be lowered to around 7.5 per cent.
“In the 12th Plan for the first time,upper-end performance was going to be around 8 per cent average in a year but since then global economy has done much worse.
“So,today 8 per cent is bit on the high side. The possibility for next five years I feel is 7.5 per cent which is not impossible,” Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said.
During the first year of the 12th Plan,India’s economy grew by only 5 per cent,the slowest in a decade.
In the first half (April-September) of the current fiscal FY2013-14,the economy grew by just 4.6 per cent.
The Planning Commission will conduct the mid-term review of the 12th Five Year Plan by the end of 2014,for which the preparatory work has started already,Ahluwalia said.
“The 12th Plan has set a target of 8 per cent economic growth over the five year period 2012-13 to 2016-17. With a growth of only 5 per cent in the first year and perhaps 6.5 per cent in the second,it will require a very sharp acceleration in the later years to achieve an average of 8 per cent over the entire Plan period,” the Commission said in its 12th Plan document.
The Indian economy grew at over 9 per cent for five years before 2008,a period during which global economy was booming.
In one of its major thrusts to fuel economic growth and promote economic activity,the government cleared docks to get going big infrastructure projects by setting up the Cabinet Committee on Investment to deal with situations where clearances were unduly delayed.
The Commission in the 12th Plan has also proposed a two pronged strategy to bring the macro economic imbalances under control and to reverse the slowdown,as well as pushing for structural reforms in areas critical for maintaining medium term growth.
However,Ahluwalia,remains optimistic of an economic turnaround in the coming quarters on the back of various measures taken by the government supported by good agricultural production this year.
“I expect to see recovery in the coming quarters. Exactly how much that it will produce,is difficult to predict right now. But we are definitely on a turnaround path,” Ahluwalia said.
Planning Commission Secretary Sindhushree Khullar was of the view that the year was productive and key impediments in the infrastructure sector were successfully removed.
“2013 calender year was very productive for us. In 2012,the NDC approved the 12th Plan,so for us,it’s a very big milestone of getting all the chief ministers to endorse the plan. So,it’s (2013) a very eventful year.
“I think we have done reasonably well. We have been very active on the reviews,following up… a lot of work in the infrastructure sector,” Khullar said.
The Commission during the year also set up a committee under one of its members,B K Chaturvedi,to look into the possibility of utilisation of surplus coal from captive mines by power firms so as to tide over energy related issues.
The Committee will possibly submit its report to the government soon.
During the year,the Planning Commission also set up an Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) under Ajay Chibber with an objective to improve the effectiveness of government policies and programmes by assessing their impact and outcomes.
According to officials in the Planning Commission,the immediate impact of the IEO will not be felt,but in the long run it will help in making significant policy changes.
Although,the entire focus during the year had been to revive economic growth and remove policy bottlenecks,the Planning Commission for once again was targeted on poverty data,evoking sharp criticism from opposition and experts.
The poverty data by the Commission in July suggested that people spending over Rs 33.33 per day in urban and Rs 27.20 per day in rural areas could not be considered as poor.
Earlier in 2012 also,the Commission had said that people with a daily consumption expenditure of Rs 28.35 in cities and Rs 22.42 in villages were above the poverty line.
Among others,the Planning Commission also drew attention from various quarters for turning the Yojana Bhawan virtually into a fortress and making it inaccessible during visits of high profile people like Bill Gates,state Chief Ministers — Narendra Modi,Mamata Banerjee and J Jayalalithaa citing security reasons.
In few of the unexpected events,the Commission witnessed protests by a student union from West Bengal that led to manhandling of state Finance Minister Amit Mitra.
Mitra was manhandled in a gherao by Students’ Federation of India (SFI) activists outside Yojana Bhawan,protesting the death of one of their colleagues in Kolkata.
A scuffle between mediapersons and personal security guards of Bill Gates was a forgettable incident during the year.