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Published on 28 Dec. 2009 12:27 AM IST
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The economic reforms have helped in reducing poverty in India, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Sunday, but admitted a lot more needed to be done as poverty remained a “major challenge”. “There is no doubt in my view that poverty remains a major challenge. Our poor are still too poor and we need to do much more to improve their standard of living,” he said, in his address at the 92nd annual conference of the Indian Economic Association here. “The economy has to grow fast enough to create new job opportunities at a rate faster than the growth of labour force,” he said, supporting high growth rate for reduction of poverty and stressing on “inclusive growth” as brought out in the Eleventh Five Year Plan. For inclusive growth the prime minister suggested that the country must pay greater attention to sectors like education, health and rural development. “We need to pay greater attention to education, healthcare and rural development focusing particularly on the needs of the poor - scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and minorities,” he said and also urged efficient and economic use of scarce natural resources like land and water. “Special attention has to be paid in increasing agricultural productivity-particularly of small and marginal farmers,” he added. The prime minister, however, denied that the economic reforms had adversely affected the poor. “There is no evidence that the new economic policies have had an adverse effect on the poor,” the prime minister said. “It is true that the rate of decline has not been as it should have been,” he said adding that the economic reforms have rather helped in bringing down the number of people living below poverty line. “Ideally facts are quite clear. The percentage (of people) below poverty line has not increased. In fact, the population below poverty line has declined after economic reforms, at least at the same rate as it was before.” “Some economists argued that the poverty line should have been bridged. That means the percentage in poverty is obviously high. That does not mean that the percentage below the poverty line is not declining,” the prime minister said. He also stressed on making a conducive atmosphere of growth by improving governance. “Greater emphasis has to be laid on reforms in governance to reduce the scope for corruption,” he added. Manmohan Singh said the economy is likely to grow by seven percent or a little more in 2009-2010. “The momentum was interrupted by the global economic crisis in 2008 and we slowed down to 6.7 percent in 2008-09 and are likely to achieve seven per cent or a little more in the current fiscal year,” he said. The prime minister who arrived here Sunday on a brief visit also laid the foundation stone of the proposed campus of National Institute for Science Education and Research (NISER) near Jatni in Khordha district, about 25 km from here. The union cabinet Sep 6, 2007 gave its approval for the institute at an estimated cost of Rs.823.19 crore and also creation of 761 posts in academic, scientific, technical, administrative and auxiliary categories for a seven-year plan. NISER, operating under the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), is currently conducting the five-year integrated masters in science programme in Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics. The first academic programme of the institute was inaugurated by state Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik Sep 10, 2007. Currently NISER is utilising the facilities of Institute of Physics at Bhubaneswar for functioning. The institute is an autonomous research institution funded jointly by the DAE and the Orissa government. The state government has already allotted 300 acres of land for the NISER campus. After laying the foundation stone, Singh was to return to New Delhi, official sources said. This is Manmohan Singh’s second visit to the state as prime minister. His first visit was in August 2006 during his first tenure. During that visit he had announced the establishment of NISER in the state.

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