Focus on roads, water, health
will give masses feel of robust economy
By Rajeev Ranjan Roy
Delhi, Oct 29 (IANS) In these times of uncertainty, improved
access to basic infrastructure like roads, potable water,
health and education will give India's poor masses the feel
of a robust and expanding economy, a top economic advisor
drinking water and sanitation facilities, schools, colleges
and health centres are some of the basic public goods where
improvement will benefit the masses in general," said
Arvind Virmani, chief economic advisor in the finance ministry.
will give them the feel of an expanding economy - an economy
that has grown at an average pace of 9 percent in the past
four years and one that will log nearly 8 percent growth this
fiscal despite the global meltdown," Virmani told IANS
in an interview.
70 percent of India's billion-plus population lives in rural
areas, where basic infrastructure facilities are largely considered
to be in need of massive upgradation.
50 percent of the villages are without roads, while only around
6,000 community healthcare centres have specialists - a far
cry against the stated requirement of at least 21,000 professionals.
the public goods front, perhaps we are not doing everything
that needs to be done. Things are, however, changing,"
said Virmani, who has a doctorate in economics from the Harvard
University under the supervision of Nobel laureate Kenneth
is a gradual change in the last 10 years. The focus has shifted
gradually to some of the basics - roads, drinking water, sanitation
- where the difference is being felt," he added.
government has in the past 10 years launched a number of centrally
sponsored programmes to build up basic infrastructure in rural
areas. For example, the Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sadak Yojana
(PMGSY) is engaged in refurbishing rural roads.
2009, the government intends to connect all habitations with
a population of 500 with all-weather road. This entails constructing
146,185 kilometres of rural roads that will connect nearly
70,000 habitations, he said.
was also a special initiative to build basic infrastructure
for sustained water supply - the Accelerated Rural Water Supply
Programme (ARWSP) under which 420,000 rural habitations were
provided with safe drinking water provision during 2004-08.
is the poor who need the basics. So, a focus on basics will
automatically benefit them the most," said Virmani, adding
that there were two aspects about economic growth, both of
which were part of the government's slogan of inclusiveness.
aspect of economic growth is increases in income and demand
for labour. Second is the supply of basics and quasi-public
goods to the masses," he said, pointing out that from
1980 onward, the per capita income growth had trebled.
poverty level has gone down to nearly 25 percent from 40 percent
during this period. Clearly, we are doing better than earlier.
Still a lot needs to be done."