Managing inflationary pressure biggest challenge: Rangarajan

Managing inflationary pressure biggest challenge: Rangarajan

Vadodara: Managing inflationary pressures -- particularly in food grain prices -- was the biggest challenge before the policy-makers, said C. Rangarajan, chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, here.

Rangarajan, a former governor of Reserve Bank of India (RBI), was speaking on the topic ‘the growth path and some concerns on the way’ at a function at Federation of Gujarat Industries (FGI) on Monday.

“There are a few areas where immediate engagement of the policy-makers is needed. In the short run, managing inflationary pressures, particularly foodgrain prices, is the biggest challenge," he said.

“We also need to watch out what happens to crude prices in the global markets. We must remain committed to maintaining inflation at a low level."

Saying that he did not subscribe to the idea that high growth demanded higher level of inflation, he stated, “We must use all of our policy instruments -- interventions in the grain market, fiscal and monetary policies -- to bring down inflation further and re-anchor inflationary expectations to the 5% comfort zone."

The second concern, he said, was the balance of payments as the current account deficit had remained very high at 3.7% of the GDP in the first half of 2010-11. “Efforts must be made to bring down the current account deficit to a more manageable level of 2.0 to 2.5% of GDP."

This, he said, was desirable to impart much-needed stability on the external payment front and to reduce the risk to domestic economy from volatility in international financial markets.

Another critical challenge was fiscal consolidation which was a necessary pre-requisite for sustained growth, he said.

In the wake of international financial crisis, India, like many other countries, adopted an expansionary fiscal policy to stimulate demand. Consequently, the fiscal deficit which was coming down started rising; in 2008-09, deficit was 6% of GDP, it rose to 6.4% next year.

But, unlike in countries in the advanced world, where there was a continuing debate on when to terminate the expansionary policies, “we in India have taken a decision to initiate fiscal consolidation process," Rangarajan said.

In 2010-11, the fiscal deficit was expected to come down to 5.1% and it was projected to fall to 4.6% in the current fiscal, he said, adding that “we should maintain this course and reach the FRBM target of 3%".

Rangarajan also said that in the medium term, farm economy and power generation were crucial sectors.

“Steps must be taken to revitalize the traditional crop agriculture which is vital to food security and farm income." As consumer demands shift, agricultural production must also respond, he said.

Shortage of physical infrastructure, most importantly the electricity, was another big challenge, he said, stating that a more “aggressive path" of capacity creation must start immediately for sustaining a high growth rate of 9%.

“In the midst of various controversies, India’s growth story remains intact. We have the potential to grow at 9% over the next decade," he said.

The thrust of the new economic policy was on creating a more competitive environment to improve productivity and efficiency and this was to be achieved by removing barriers to the entry and restrictions on growth of firms, he said.

He claimed that “economic reforms are on the right track, (the fact which) is vindicated by the performance of the economy since the launch of the reforms’.