India PM touts economic record ahead of elections

AP News
Posted: Jul 19, 2013 3:39 AM

NEW DELHI (AP) — India's prime minister laid out arguments for his party's re-election Friday, touting the government's economic record and promising to leave "no stone unturned" to spark a rebound for an economy that is now stumbling.

Manmohan Singh's address to one of the country's top industry groups shows his Congress party shifting into campaign mode for elections slated for 2014. It also comes as India deals with a plunging rupee, slowing overall growth and high current account deficit. This week, ArcelorMittal and South Korea's Posco scrapped multibillion dollar plans for steel plants in India because of long delays in acquiring land and other problems.

He said Asia's third-biggest economy would likely undershoot its 6.5 percent growth target for the fiscal year that ends in March and the government would unveil a slew of reforms to boost economic activity, but gave no specifics.

"When things are going well, government should interfere as little as possible. When things are going bad as they seem to be at present, it is the responsibility of the government to become more proactive," Singh told The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India.

Singh said economic growth had averaged well over 8 percent during the first eight years that his Congress party-led coalition had been in power, and there had been significant declines in poverty.

"I think this is a record that any government can be proud of," he said.

Singh also addressed concerns about the weakness of the Indian rupee, which fell to an all-time low of 61.21 against the U.S. dollar this month amid concerns about India's ballooning current account deficit.

Singh said his government was committed to reducing that deficit, which was 4.7 percent of the India's gross domestic product in the last fiscal year, but acknowledged it would take longer than the remainder of the government's current term.

The current account is a broad measure of trade and investment income balances with the rest of the world.