Speaking at the Editors' Conference 2008 yesterday, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram besides highlighting the achievements of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government since May 2004, spoke on many other crucial issues like growth performance and outlook for 2008-09, challenges facing the economy, prices and inflation management, fiscal consolidation and social sector development & inclusive growth.
In regards to the development in the social sector and inclusive growth Chidambaram said that faster economic growth has begun to get translated into more inclusive growth, both in terms of employment generation and poverty reduction. The 61st Round of the NSSO Survey estimated that 47 million additional work opportunities were created during 1999-2000 to 2004-05, at an annual average of 9.4 million as against an annual average of 4 million job opportunities during 1993-94 to 1999-2000.The proportion of persons below the poverty line declined from around 36 per cent of the population in 1993-94 to 28 per cent in 2004-05 as per the uniform recall period. Based on the mixed recall period, the number of persons below the poverty line declined from 26 per cent in 1999-2000 to 22 per cent in 2004-05.
In pursuance of the objective of inclusive growth, Government has been implementing eight flagship programmes supported by sizeable outlays. These include National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan(SSA), Mid-day Meal(MMS), Integrated Child Development Services(ICDS), Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission(JNNURM), Rajiv Gandhi Drinking Water Mission and the Total Santation Campaign. Together, these flagship programmes aim to improve the livelihood of people as well as provide them with easy access to basic facilities like education, health, clean drinking water and sanitation. Besides, Bharat Nirman, which is an important programme to improve the quality of life and mainstreaming of the rural population, has received high priority.
Chidabaram emphasized that expansion and universalization within the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme has been a major achievement for the UPA government. In 2007-08, 3.39 crore households were provided employment and 143.5 crore person-days were generated in 330 districts. In 2008-2009 (upto September 2008), 2.93 crore households have been provided employment and 109.30 crore person-days have been generated. The enhanced wage earnings have led to a strengthening of the livelihood resource base of the rural poor in India. This is also reflected in the increased demand for and consumption of wage goods.