India aims to accelerate economic growth to nine percent, despite deepening global financial worries and stubborn domestic inflationary pressures, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Saturday.
The higher growth target comes even though India's hawkish central bank, which has hiked interest rates 11 times in 18 months, says slower expansion may be required to rein in close to double-digit inflation.
"We want to achieve a growth rate of nine percent per annum (starting in 2012)," Singh said as he outlined the Congress government's goals for India's next five-year economic plan to 2017.
Despite launching moves to free up its economy two decades ago, India still runs on five-year plans introduced in 1951 by its first premier, Jawaharlal Nehru, who admired the-then Soviet Union's central economic planning model.
Singh told reporters in New Delhi he wanted to keep open "the possibility of raising the growth rate -- if the domestic and international situation improves -- to 9.2 percent."
"If they're lucky, 9.2 percent growth is possible with better infrastructure and more economic reforms but with current global conditions, there are risks," said Deepak Lalwani, head of India-focused consultancy Lalcap in London.
India’s economy has grown by around 8.6 percent a year since 2006 while neighbouring emerging market giant China's economy has expanded by nearly 10 percent in the same period.
While the nine percent goal may seem lofty in the face of anaemic Western growth, it represents an official climbdown from the government's dream of attaining double-digit economic growth in the next five-year plan.
The ruling Congress party has long wanted to make history as the first administration to usher in 10 percent growth -- touted by experts as key to hauling hundreds of millions out of poverty.
The government is projecting growth of around 8.5 percent for the current year to March 2012, equal to the previous year's expansion.
But that forecast is far above bearish predictions of many private economists who expect growth in the low seven percent range as interest rate hikes bite and private investment slows.
Singh, who initiated the first liberalisation wave when finance minister, also said "it will be priority number one to push reforms," such as revamping antiquated land acquisition laws to pave the way for industrial projects.
"But the effort has to be create a climate of opinion where all parties will unite to push forward the reform agenda," he said.
India's reform process has been paralysed with the administration mired in multi-billion-dollar corruption scandals and hemmed in by political opposition.
Singh reached out to end a deadlock over an anti-corruption bill that has sparked a bitter standoff between the government and popular social reformer Anna Hazare who began a public fast Friday for a tougher law.
He said his government was open to "give and take" on the bill to tackle rampant graft that economists say poses a major challenge to India attaining its growth potential and is a significant deterrent to foreign investors.