I am delighted to be amidst you for the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the Indian Economic Service. Our first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, had envisaged this service as a cadre of highly qualified, professional economists who would be instrumental in establishing the economic base of the country. The officers of the Indian Economic Service have, through their crucial analytical inputs and expertise, contributed to strengthening our economy. However, this is just the beginning of the journey. I am sure you will carry forward the shining legacy of your predecessors and accomplish yet more in the years to come. I would also like to commend the Department of Economic Affairs for organizing these grand celebrations to mark 50 years of this prestigious service.
The visionary founding fathers of our Constitution, in their quest for a just and fair social order, envisioned a welfare state committed to the development and well being of its people. Our Constitution makes it incumbent upon the State to secure justice - economic, social and political - to all its citizens. Our policies and programmes, based on this philosophy, are aimed at creating an enabling environment and generating equal opportunities to all in every sphere of life. The Directive Principles of State Policy are the touchstone for assessing the performance of the Government, particularly in the promotion of socio-economic interests of the weaker sections of our society.
The Parliament of India has zealously spearheaded the campaign for sustainable and inclusive development of the country. It has fervently crusaded for socio-economic upliftment of the marginalized sections and has been actively engaged in ensuring equitable growth of our economy. Several forward looking legislations have been enacted by our Parliament which include legislations on reduction of economic disparities, land reforms, equal distribution of wealth and resources, promotion of humane conditions and development of human resources.
Our Parliament has always been the catalyst for our Government in stimulating socio-economic changes to fulfil the hopes and aspirations of the people of our country. Developing on the foundations laid during the nascent years of our parliamentary democracy, we have emerged as one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The year 1991 stands out as a watershed year in the post-independence economic history of our country marking a paradigm shift in our economic policies. It was the time when we undertook an extensive economic reform programme to reverse the impending balance of payments crisis, redefine the role of the State and to restructure and modernize the economy. The path- breaking decisions to liberalize and deregulate provided a competitive market orientation both in the domestic and international environment and made India an integral part of the closely-knit global economy.
However, to sustainably maintain this position, we need to balance growth with equity and inclusiveness. We must fulfil the rising expectations of our billion plus population and ensure that the benefits of development reach the poor and vulnerable sections of the society. I firmly believe that no nation can claim to have advanced unless the weakest person in the country has progressed.
It is a stark reality that in spite of the remarkable growth of about 8.2 % in our GDP, we still stand 134th in the Human Development Report 2011. Our economic growth has not translated into up-gradation of the socio economic condition of our teeming masses. There still remains a vast chasm between the existing social infrastructure and the desired optimum level. I have just returned from Paraguay. They have a remarkable GDP growth of 15.3%. When I met the President of Paraguay, I congratulated him that he showed his firmness and concern. He said that we have the tremendous challenge of translating this remarkable growth into something which is inclusive. Now I think this is something which sounded very familiar to me because we have the same challenge. This is what I am trying to underline.
The economic growth is closely linked with good governance which is central to efficient distribution and utilization of country's resources, ensuring fair competition, protecting consumer rights and passing the benefits of globalization to the common man. Our Indian Economic Service Officers can play a proactive role in this direction.
With more than 40 crore Indians living below poverty line, addressing poverty in addition to the health and education needs of the people are a priority for us. It is, therefore, imperative to eliminate the factors responsible for the continuance of poverty and mitigate the same with suitable developmental programmes. Accomplishment of such an onerous task entails complex and tough policy decisions which can only be taken with the considered inputs from our policy planners and economic administrators.
Rapid population growth and the growing concern for food security have made it essential for us to impart a new impetus to the agricultural sector. Our policy initiatives must target the 68.84% of our population living in villages and regenerate the rural economy. We must improve the forward and backward linkages which include better credit delivery, investment in irrigation and rural infrastructure, improved cropping pattern, development of food processing industry and cold chains across the entire distribution system. Such initiatives, I am sure will enable our farmers to benefit from the flourishing market and augment our endeavours towards sustained poverty reduction while enhancing our food production capabilities.
Fiscal consolidation is imperative for maintaining good economic health of the country and for promoting sustained growth. Even as the global financial crises swept across the world, India through its focus on stimulating the economy and broadening the inclusive agenda of development, was able to respond to the challenges of the economic meltdown. However, our finances face constraints and we have to make earnest efforts to maintain them within the targeted limit. It is crucially important to keep inflation under control and ensure that it does not exceed the threshold capacity of the economy. Our Parliament has always mirrored the concerns and worries of the people on this issue and through its detailed discussions and debates, provided necessary inputs to the Government.
In this era of globalization, economies are no longer defined by political boundaries. The ripples of events in any part of the world are felt all over. As India surges ahead, it has not only to ensure that the domestic economic growth is equitable and egalitarian but being the representative of the developing world, it has also to take up a leading role in influencing and directing the global economic policies. I have returned after attending many International Conferences and I must share with you tremendous admiration that India enjoys among all the countries, not just the developing countries but also by the highly developed countries. There are two reasons for it. One is the way we are driving our democracy at a time when democracy has failed in our neighbourhood. Many countries which gained independence from the colonial regime could not do it. There was a chain reaction. Those who were under British rule have the Westminster model. Some other countries also had a democratic system to begin with. But you would find in them and everywhere that democracy has eventually failed. In India, with its vast population, immense complexities and so much of diversity we have succeeded in not only having democracy but also in strengthening it. So there is a great admiration for it by all. In fact, they wonder how we do it. The second reason why we enjoy this admiration is the way we run our economy. During the financial crisis and economic melt down, even the powerful economies just disintegrated. With a zero per cent GDP growth rate, it became impossible for them to handle it. They went to minus growth rate including very strong economies. From 7.2 per cent at that time, we came down to 6.7 per cent and again we have bounced back to 8.2 per cent. So, they admire us for this. That is why, I am saying that they look up to us and they treat us as a role model. So, we have to tell them what should be done and what has to be done. It is, therefore, incumbent upon us to strive towards establishing a just, fair and sustainable pattern of growth across the world.
Economic rationality and logic play a critical role in nation building in this globalized environment which requires real time and far sighted policy response. The pace at which development processes are expanding and getting diversified demands continuous upgrading of professional skills through capacity building and enhancing of the analytical abilities of our economic experts. It is therefore vital to impart a new dynamism to the Officers of the Indian Economic Service. They need to be well equipped to shoulder their responsibilities and respond to the rising aspirations of the people. As economic administrators of the country, they have to be sensitive to the needs and concerns of the poor and the down-trodden and strive to include policies for their upliftment as a part of our strategy of inclusive growth.
I would like to convey my deep appreciation to the entire cadre of the Indian Economic Service for their diligence and dedication. These officers are playing a commendable role by providing vital inputs for formulating development policies, strengthening of delivery system and monitoring and evaluating public programmes.
I am happy to release the two books which are very handsomely brought out books. I have not gone through the content but I am sure they will be read with great interest by their readers. I also extend my congratulations to all the winners of the Essay which was held as a part of these celebrations. It is indeed heartening to see bright youngsters taking keen interest in socio economic development of the nation.
I wish all the officers of the Indian Economic Service the very best in their future endeavours and once again congratulate them on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee Celebrations.