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May 28, 2017

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Modi makes economic revival 'paramount' goal

NEW DELHI--India's new government pledged Monday to fix the flagging economy and provide water, power and toilets to every home as it laid out its agenda following Prime Minister Narendra Modi's landslide election victory.

In an address to both houses of parliament, President Pranab Mukherjee said India's economy faced "extremely difficult" times and that inflation was "unacceptably" high, as he outlined the government's legislative priorities.

The speech, which was drawn up by Modi's new cabinet, included ambitious plans to overhaul India's dilapidated roads, and to build a high-speed train network and more airports.

The speech included goals that had been laid out in the election manifesto of Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including creating 100 new cities to assist the millions flocking from rural areas every year searching for work.

"The country is passing through an extremely difficult phase on the economic front," Mukherjee told lawmakers. "Putting the economy back on track is paramount for my government.

"We will work together to usher our economy into a high growth path, rein in inflation, reignite the investment cycle, accelerate job creation and restore the confidence of the domestic as well as international community."

India's economy has been growing at below five percent for the past two years, way below the level needed to lift millions of people out of poverty, while inflation is currently running close to nine percent.

Modi's right-wing BJP, which thrashed the center-left Congress party in marathon polls in April and May, made reviving the economy the main platform of its campaign as well as promising to clean up government.

The government promised every family home would have basic amenities by the year 2022, an ambitious goal in a country where nearly half the population is forced to defecate in the open and millions live without electricity.

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