LIMA, March 2 (Reuters) - Peruvian President Ollanta Humala on Monday brushed aside a sharp slowdown in growth last year and said policies to alleviate poverty and boost development over the long-term were more important than economic numbers.
Peru’s economy expanded 2.35 percent in 2014, its slowest rate in five years and well under annual rates that averaged 6.4 percent in the previous decade.
Humala stuck to his government’s forecast that gross domestic product would rise 4.8 percent in 2015, his last full year in office.
“But is that important?” Humala asked rhetorically at a press conference. “I don’t think so. I think what’s important are the measures we’ve been introducing.”
Humala’s government has introduced several economic reforms to revive the mining-driven economy in recent months, from raising the salaries of teachers to cutting taxes.
“The economic fundamentals are solid,” Humala said.
Humala, a former left-leaning military officer, has continued the orthodox economic policies of his predecessors while emphasizing social programs for the poor.
When asked what he would prioritize in what remains of his five-year term, Humala said “social inclusion,” a phrase he uses to describe efforts to help poor and rural Peruvians.
“Reduce the inequality gap,” Humala said. “Worry about inclusion because that’s what’s going to bring stronger growth.”
Peru’s poverty rate fell to 23.9 percent in 2013 from 30.8 percent in 2010 before Humala assumed power, according to state statistics agency Inei.
Humala had set a goal of reducing the poverty rate to 15 percent by the end of his term in July 2016. Peruvian law bars presidents from holding two consecutive terms and his party has not yet announced its presidential candidate for 2016.
Humala also said that he would demand that Argentine energy company Pluspetrol clean up pollution in oil block 1-AB before its contract ends in August.
The company is struggling to resolve disputes with native communities demanding compensation for leaks and spills on ancestral lands.
Reporting By Mitra Taj and Marco Aquino; editing by Andrew Hay