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Opening Statement at the 29th Session of the Governing Council of IFAD

Mr. Chairman,

I would like to begin by extending my felicitations to you upon your election as the Chairperson of this Governing Council of IFAD.  The President, the management and the staff of IFAD must also be included in this list of felicitations for the work that is being done by them towards effective and practical schemes in favour of the rural poor.  It is in that spirit that I would also like to compliment them for focusing the attention of this Session on the theme "Innovation, Challenges for the Rural Poor".

Indeed the debate for this Session has been most laudably put into motion by the inaugural address by H.E. Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup, Prime Minister of Bhutan.  We note the wise suggestions included in his address  and I acknowledge gratefully his references to Mahatma Gandhi.

It is appropriate that the Prime Minister of Bhutan has quoted Mahatma Gandhi.  Mahatma Gandhi was indeed a universal man.  He belongs to the world, and his message has a global appeal.  He maintained that no progress can be long-lasting or truly complete unless the lot of the poor becomes better and they are able to march forward in equal step with others .

A major challenge facing the world today is to address Millenium Development Goals of the UN effectively.  IFAD's efforts to contribute to this goal within an early timeframe are therefore welcome and must be supported. 

We are confident that the Round Table discussions on this theme and the deliberations of the Governing Council would help IFAD address its strategic objectives of improving the global access to natural resources and technology, financial services and marketing and strengthening the capacity of the rural poor and their organizations. 

We in India are of the view that progress and prosperity can be truly effective only if it is inclusive. If it reaches out to all.  The challenge of progress therefore is to carry the benefits to the rural poor too, and to make them equal players in development.  We are of the view that poverty must be overcome through sustained efforts and by assisting the maximum number of families living below the poverty line in the quickest possible time. 

In this context, I would like to bring to the notice of the Governors an important institutional innovation of the Government of India.  This has been done through the enactment of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 by the Indian Parliament. It has now become obligatory on the part of the various State Governments and their implementing agencies in India to ensure that every household in the rural areas is guaranteed wage employment in unskilled manual work at least for a period of 100 days in a year.  Through this Act it has now become possible for a group of persons, men and women, to demand work from the Government through the village councils called Panchayats in all parts of rural India.

The Village Councils in India, as is widely known, are elected representative bodies and, therefore, are best institutions for implementation of such a programme in a decentralized manner.  However, recognizing that poverty reduction strategy is not merely about technological fixes and that it impacts on social relations and rural power structure, another piece of legislation enacted recently is the Act on Right of Information.  A citizen's right to access information from all levels of Government, it is hoped, shall help increase transparency, empower beneficiaries and other stakeholders, including civil society organizations.

While pledges supporting contributions for the 7th Replenishment are still coming in, it is a matter of satisfaction for India that we have been able to increase contribution from what was pledged for the 6th Replenishment.  It is hoped that the target set for the 7th Replenishment would be achieved.

Concerns have been expressed by some Member Countries regarding the implementation of the Performance-Based Allocation System (PABS).  We note that an informal seminar for the membership to consider modifications to the formula is proposed to be held prior to the April 2006 Executive Board meeting.  I am sure this matter of importance would receive due attention for smooth implementation of programmes taken up by IFAD.  I am confidence that through mutual consultations and with the active involvement of the Members of the Executive Board, a consensus would be achieved.

On other issues as well, which include the Associated Professional Officer (APO) Programme and the issue regarding reform in the IFAD's governing structure, discussions are expected to continue within the Executive Board.  While for the APO Programme, which has great intrinsic value for small countries, an acceptable arrangement for its financing is to be found, wide consultations would be required for any changes that are made to the IFAD's governing structure.  A structure that has served IFAD well needs to be nurtured for future too.  However, we would go along with the proposal for the setting up of an ad hoc committee comprising of Executive Board Members which could go into details and look at the past arrangements and the need if any for changes therein.

Mr. Chairman, I look forward to fruitful deliberations by the Governors and country representatives.