High growth, subsidy and food prices key challenges: PM

Surajkund (Haryana), Nov 9 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday batted for high economic growth to sustain the Congress's social welfare agenda and flagged the need to curb fiscal deficit, subsidy bill and high food prices as key economic challenges facing the country.

"He said the most important economic challenge was to achieve high growth rate," Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi told reporters quoting the prime minister.

"He expressed concern on high food prices, which affects common man, fiscal deficit and subsidy bill including food, fertiliser and petroleum subsidy," he said.

Expressing satisfaction over the economic growth during the last eight years of the UPA government, the prime minister also said that the country needed agricultural growth at four percent to ensure food security.

He also said economic development should not affect environment.

The prime minister was addressing party leaders and ministers at a review-cum-strategy meeting for the 2014 general elections held in this Haryana town bordering the national capital.

Billed as an informal 'Samvad Baithak' (brainstorming session), the meeting was attended by 66 people, including ministers and Congress Working Committee members.

According to Dwivedi, the prime minister also spoke about the need for better coordination between the party and the government and said that ensuring communal harmony was a big challenge.

Addressing the meeting, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, the country's economy was going through a tough time due to the global economic downturn which started in 2008.

He also attributed the slowdown in the economy to high commodity prices and declining investment.

The finance minister also cautioned the meeting on reforms saying the country should avoid any controversy in this area.

He said steps on fiscal consolidation and to make the rupee stable would be required to restart the growth engine.

He said the role of foreign investment was important in achieving this goal.

Terming cash transfers to replace the various subsidy as a bold decision, Chidambaram said wages of rural job plan MGNREGS and the public distribution system, which provided cheap grains to the poor, could use the unique identity Aadhaar numbers.

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