Finance minister says need to utilise demographic dividend

Business Standard, January 09, 2015

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the downturn in economic growth had ended. “A significant downward trend in inflation has also been recorded in the second and third quarter of 2014-15. The external environment has also largely turned in India’s favour,” he said on Thursday.

In such a backdrop, domestic policies to achieve macroeconomic balance and the ongoing process of reforms would lend further strength to the recovery, he said.

The country’s economic growth had declined to 5.3 per cent in the second quarter of the current financial year, against 5.7 per cent in the first. The growth was 5.5 per cent in the first half, against below five per cent economic expansion in the previous two full financial years. In a pre-Budget interaction with people from the social sector, Jaitley emphasised the need to reap the demographic dividend properly.

“More than 63 per cent of the population is in the age group of 15-59 years. While this young population provides India a great opportunity, it also poses a great challenge,” he was quoted as saying. He said benefits would flow only if the population was healthy, educated and properly skilled. Hence, investments, especially in social infrastructure that build up human capital, are crucial. So, the government had put a thrust on skill development and the ‘Make in India’ programme to create large job avenues.

The representatives from various social sector groups pressed for more money to the education sector, to six per cent of gross domestic product from the current 3.4 per cent, with an emphasis on early childhood and elementary education.

Also, for preventing any scope of diversion of funds meant for the benefit of scheduled castes and tribes. Plus, enough money to fund Integrated Child Development Services, the Mid-Day Meal Scheme and for the programmes on nutrition of mother and child under the food security law.

Pradeep Mehta of consumer advocacy group CUTS, Paul Divakar of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, Barsha Poricha of National Foundation for India, Sreedhar Ramamoorty of Mines, Minerals and People and Dipa Sinha of the Right to Food Campaign attended.

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