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Don't Disengage From Agriculture, India...

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India has bluntly told the Asian Development Bank (ADB) that it is both premature and inappropriate for the institution to disengage itself from agriculture at a time when the escalating food prices across the world is hurting poor the most.
"Given the escalating food prices across the world, which hurt the poor the most, it is both premature and inappropriate for ADB to disengage from agriculture fully," Finance Minister P. Chidambaram told the 41st meeting of the Bank in Madrid, Spain.
He noted that "it is well established that robust agriculture infrastructure can help prevent huge wastes which occur due to inappropriate handling, storage, transportation and marketing of agricultural produce". Improvement in irrigation infrastructure, he added, is equally important for increasing food grain production.
"Strengthening the farm-to-market link is critical for improving food security and this could indeed be an important area of ADB intervention," the minister said on Monday.
The Indian delegation to the ADB, which is meeting amid fears of global slowdown and food crisis, included Finance Secretary D. Subba Rao, Teri Chairman Rajendra K Pachauri and Infrastructure Finance Development Company CEO Rajiv Lall.
The four-day ADB Annual General Meeting would discuss the economic outlook for the Asia-Pacific region and issues relating to poverty reduction and climate change.
On environmentally sustainable growth, Chidambaram said India supported the ADB's focus on climate change and urban environment.
India is committed to following an environmentally sustainable energy policy with a spirit of mutual accountability and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities," the minister said. India urged ADB to secure greater financing resources at more concessional terms for energy efficiency and clean energy projects.
Chidambaram further said "regional cooperation is one area where ADB has been demonstrating its comparative strength among international financial institutions, and India welcomes Strategy 2020's emphasis on it, including the intention to increase the share of regional and subregional projects in the total operations".
However, he said "these must come as additionality to the national projects and preferably on concessional terms".
While welcoming the ADB's resolve to free Asia and the Pacific Region from poverty, Chidambaram said the Strategy 2020 must be backed by a detailed implementation strategy.
Noting that Asia is a challenging place for any development institution because of its heterogeneity, Chidambaram said "the region houses some of most dynamic economies of the world and also some of the most fragile.
"Even those middle income countries that have achieved considerable economic progress are still grappling with extreme poverty in pockets. ADB needs to respond to Developing Member Countries' (DMCs) needs and maintain an appropriate level of operational size." The Finance Minister said that for the past two years, India has been stressing the need for augmenting the capital resources of ADB. "Any further delay will be at the cost of ADB's commitments and its credibility," he warned.


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