India new govt says will focus on growth, help poor

NEW DELHI, June 4, 2009 (AFP) – India’s new Congress-led government promised Thursday to focus on spurring economic growth in its bid to meet a recent election pledge of turning voters’ hopes “into change”. Spelling out the government’s goals for a second term in office after being swept back to power on promises to help the poor, India’s president said the first aim would be to revive a slowing economy.

President Pratibha Patil said it now had “the mandate and the opportunity to translate the hopes and aspirations of the people of India into change.”

But “our immediate priority must be to focus on management of the economy that will counter the effect of the global slowdown,” she told a joint parliamentary session.

The economy expanded by 6.7 percent in the fiscal year to March 2009, down from nine percent a year earlier, and the president said growth would diminish again this year. The central bank is targeting expansion of six percent.

Patil said the drive to restore growth to at least nine percent, as seen before the financial crisis, would be accompanied by more public investment on overhauling dilapidated infrastructure — seen as a key hurdle to expansion.

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