UPA, Left discuss budget approach

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New Delhi, Feb 7 (UNI) Ahead of the finalisation of the UPA government's fourth budget, the leaders of the ruling coalition and the supporting Left parties tonight held a meeting to discuss the general approach of the Union Budget for 2008-09.

The crucial UPA-Left meeting was held at the official 7 Race Course residence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Railway Minister Lalu Prasad briefly explained the achievements of the government in the past four years.

The Left leaders asked the government to set apart more funds for welfare measures and those remaining schemes and programmes in the Common Minimum Programme, the agenda for governance agreed mutually by the Left and the ruling UPA coalition.

Besides Dr Singh, Mr Prasad and Mr Chidambaram, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Defence Minister A K Antony, Left leaders Prakash Karat, Sitaram Yechury, A B Bardhan, D Raja, Abani Roy, Debabrata Biswas attended the meeting, which was followed by a dinner hosted by Dr Singh.

UPA leaders and Union Ministers Sharad Pawar, A Raja, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, Prithviraj Chavan, Ram Vilas Paswan also attended the meeting.

Left leaders said they had highlighted those sectors and sections which should get adequate consideration in the budget.

They asked the government to do away with the exorbitant tax exemptions being granted in Special Economic Zones.

While pointing out the lapses of the government in the past four years, they asked the government not to be obsessed with the growth rate.

They wanted the government to come out with new proposals in the budget for redistribution of the benefits of growth to all sections of the society, particularly the weaker sections.

The four Left parties earlier in the day held a joint meeting and prepared a wish list. The list was presented to Prime Minister Singh.

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