FM urges industry to cater to rising demand and hold price line

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New Delhi, Mar 5 (UNI) Finance Minister P Chidambaram, today urged the Indian manufacturing industry to rise to the challenge of keeping prices in check as the demand for goods and services in the current year is rising in order to give a boost to consumption.

Addressing the National conference on Union Budget 2008-09, organised by industry body FICCI here today, Mr Chidambaram said, ''at a time when agriculture is not growing at the required rate, consumption is flagging, exports are hit by rupee appreciation and there is pressure on oil prices, industry must rise to the occasion and ensure that prices are kept in check.'' He urged the industrial sectors such as cement, pharmaceuticals, automobiles, and paper, to lower prices, gain in volumes and meet the rising demand this year.

Mr Chidambaram appealed to all the Chief Ministers to extend their support to the export sector which has been hit, not by volumes or shrinking markets, but by the appreciation of the rupee.

''Just as the Central Government reimburses each tax imposed on the export industry, I appeal to all states to do the same in order to give succour to the exporting community,'' Finance Minister said.

Budget 2008-09, he said, seeks to mitigate the woes of the export sector by giving direct export benefits. The market stabilisation scheme, was in effect, a subsidy to the exporting community, he pointed out.

Mr Chidambaram said the Budget proposals were aimed at keeping the India growth story in tact. While expressing satisfaction at the growth trends and prospects for the services and manufacturing sectors and investment and consumption during the past couple of years, he expressed concern at the rate of growth in agriculture.

''We have sought to give a fillip to the farm sector, put more money in the hands of the taxpayers, left the peak rate of customs unchanged, and general excise rates. We have lent our support to the export industry. We have raised public expenditure on education, health, roads and allocated Rs 16, 000 crore for the NREGP,'' Finance Minister said, adding that, ''I have no doubt in my mind that there will be an upturn in growth this year.'' Speaking about outlays and outcomes, Mr Chidambaram said that to ensure that the Central schemes are properly implemented and the outlays utilised for the intended purpose.

''Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia and I will sit down and put together an architecture for evaluation of such schemes,'' he said.

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