FM says he will present next Budget; focus on growth

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New Delhi, Oct 12 (UNI) Finance Minister P Chidambaram today exuded confidence that he will present the next budget, which will reflect continuity in the policies pursued by the UPA government.

"There is nothing to suggest that we must change course. I will remain on course while presenting the Budget", Mr Chidambaram said while answering a question after his address at the HT Leadership Summit.

The Finance Minister said there would have been reasons to change direction if growth had faltered. But with growth averaging 8.6 per cent during the last three years, there was no cause for changing the direction of the policies.

The focus would remain on achieving high growth as also making it more inclusive, for it was only strong growth which could ensure elimination of poverty, he said.

He noted that the growth rate in this fiscal would be about nine per cent and said the GDP figures next quarter would justify his statement.

"The economy could sustain a nine per cent growth rate. Investors could factor in a baseline growth rate of 8 to 8.5 per cent in coming years," he said .

''If there is some turbulence or some hiccups growth may fall on this side of nine. We must aim at nine per cent growth and we must worry if anything is hampering nine per cent,'' he said.

The Finance Minister's optimism on being able to present the Budget was in line with the views expressed earlier in the morning by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi at the same event.

The two leaders had scotched speculation that a mid-term poll is imminent in view of the UPA-Left standoff on the Indo-US nuclear deal. They had stated that the government would run its full course by completing the remaining 20 months.

''If the (nuclear) deal does not come through, it will be a disappointment. In life, one has to live with certain disappointments and move on,'' Dr Manmohan Singh had said.

The Finance Minister after a brief statement answered a host of questions relating to the stock markets, FII inflows, appreciation of the rupee, fears of slowing down of the reform process, SEZ policy, threats to internal security and their impact on the economy, performance of the Indian and global economy and as to how the country needs to move forward.

Mr Chidambaram allayed fears that the government would slow down on the reform process in view of the prevailing political situation, saying that the government would not hesitate to act if it felt that something was right.

He said except for three or four bills , the UPA government had carried forward the reform process.

The Finance Minister was replying to a question that the government would resort to populist policies in view of the pulls and pressures of the Left parties.

Mr Chidambarm said most reforms had gone through even though they had met with initial resistance and may have taken three to four years to go through. This could also happen in the future, he said.

The Finance Minister, however, indicated that he had some difference of opinion on the SEZ policy, but he was bound by the policy of the government.

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