M A I N   N E W S

PM upbeat on economy
* Says nation set to cross 8 per cent growth
* Promises low-cost loan to farmers
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 23
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today set the road map for the Budget and the forthcoming visit of US President George W. Bush by stating that annual financial statement will tackle the issue of indebtedness of small farmers and the country’s foreign policy will be governed by national interest.

“We are committed to finding a solution to the vexed problem of excessive indebtedness and dependence on moneylenders. We will try to improve access to credit at a lower cost to farmers. The Finance Minister will address this matter in his Budget speech,” the Prime Minister told the Lok Sabha.

Winding up the debate on the President’s address in the Lower House, which was marred by incessant sloganeering by Opposition members, Manmohan Singh said the government would keep the nation’s interest upmost in formulating the foreign policy.

In a move to silence critiques on foreign policy issues, especially the supporting Left allies, in context with the US President’s visit next week, Manmohan Singh asserted that “while the instruments of our policy and tactics and strategy we adopt may change with time, the value in which they are embedded are universal and will remain true for all time”.

Contending that by and large there was a national consensus on foreign policy orientation, the Prime Minister said: “I sincerely urge all political parties to respect this tradition so that the hands of the government are strengthened in dealing with the world.”

On the economic outlook, the Prime Minister said the government had delivered 8 per cent growth.

“We are seeing the highest savings rate of 29 per cent never seen in our history and a record investment rate of 31 per cent.

“The country is on the verge of crossing 8 per cent growth this year. If we sustain this for the next few years, it is possible that we can eliminate poverty, ignorance and disease which afflict millions of our people,” he said.

Regarding the decision to import wheat, the Prime Minister said it was a precautionary measure and to ensure that the minimum level of buffer stock was maintained.

On concerns of members regarding FDI in retail, he assured “we will not act in haste in this matter. We will examine this issue in all its dimensions, including its effect on livelihood and discuss this widely before taking any decision. There is no hurry on this”.

What had been allowed so far was only on single brand chains, which was an extremely narrow category and already they were present in the country through franchises, he said.

On the dissolution of Bihar Assembly, he said state Governor Buta Singh resigned out of his own volition in the wake of Supreme Court judgement and the subsequent Assembly elections in the state had made the debate “infructuous”.

Dismissing opposition charge of dual power centres in the government, the Prime Minister hit back at the BJP observing “may be they think other parties function like theirs, allowing shadowy organisations to interfere in the work of elected governments.”

Manmohan Singh said that every now and then a question is raised about prime ministerial authority “as if we live in some totalitarian system, in some fascist state, where authority has to be visibly asserted to command compliance. That may be the culture and outlook of those who keep raising the issue of authority”. The motion of thanks to the President’s address, which was passed by a voice vote in the Rajya Sabha yesterday, secured the Lok Sabha’s approval amid Opposition din.


HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |