The McKinsey Quarterly has an interview with the Indian Prime Minister on the economic agenda. Excerpts:
Manmohan Singh: The first and foremost priority is to finish the unfinished task which the founding fathers of our republic set out for us at the time of our independence: to get rid of chronic poverty, ignorance, and disease, which have afflicted millions and millions of our people. Great progress has been made. Particularly in the last 20 years, the India economy has done quite well, social indicators and development have improved, but we are not quite where we ought to be. The next 5 to 10 years are crucial for moving forward in areas to stimulate economic growth and also to ensure that this accelerated economic growth really benefits the poorest segments of our society. We need a growth rate of about 7 to 8 percent per annum, sustained over a period of the next 10 to 15 years. We need to underpin that growth by strong performance of our agriculture, strong performance of our physical and our social infrastructure. These are our key priorities.
With regard to education, I think at the top we have an excellent superstructure. The IIMs and IITs,11 the regional engineering colleges, they have served us well. But ultimately, if the educational pyramid is not right there are limits to getting dividends. Therefore we are making, for the first time, the most determined effort to ensure that all our childrenparticularly children coming from disadvantaged families, particularly the girl childin the next four or five years have the benefit of minimum primary schooling. But that will generate demand for upgrading the quality of our secondary schools. We have not given that much attention toward upgrading our secondary-school system, and that is our next step. After what we have done in the last one year, primary education is well looked after. What we have now in place is a system which will ensure that all our children who are of school-going age are in primary school. But the secondary-school system will require a major effort, and it worries me.