New Delhi: Economic recovery and job creation in India are more important than trying to tame inflation, as prices should ease because a drought is not as severe as first thought, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of Planning Commission, said on Monday.
Annual June-September monsoon rains were 23% below average, the weakest since 1972, data showed last week, and the expected negative impact on crops helped push food prices up an annual 16.3% in mid-September. “Right now we need to ensure economic recovery; that’s what gives people jobs. I think it is more important to provide jobs than to try lower prices,” Ahluwalia said after a conference.
Last month, the commission forecast 6.3% growth for Asia’s third largest economy for 2009-10 (April-March), and warned of a worst-case scenario of growth rate sliding to 5.5%.
Focus on priorities: Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia. Madhu Kapparath/Mint
“I am not revising the original forecast...I think 6.3% is very reasonable. It could be better,” he said on growth estimates for 2009-10.
Ahluwalia said the impact of drought on growth could be less than earlier thought. Flash floods in southern and western parts of the country were unlikely to have a significant impact on output, he said.
“Food prices are higher than they should be. We are very concerned about that,” he said, adding food would be imported if needed to bring prices under control.
“I am fairly hopeful that it will be, specially because the drought is not felt as bad as it was once thought. So, the speculative pressure which may have led to somewhat higher prices, will slowly begin to ease.”
Ahluwalia said the overall inflation rate was not a big problem now, but surging food prices were a concern.
“However, I do feel the rate of inflation will rise over time. We hope it will remain within the comfort level during this financial year. I regard 5 % as a comfort level.” he said.
The wholesale price index rose 0.83% in the year to 19 September, higher than expected.