With an eye on polls, UPA to project austerity in interim budget

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New Delhi, Feb 15 (ANI): The acting Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Monday put rescuing flagging growth and stemming job losses at the centre of UPA proposed interim budget as it aims to woo voters ahead of general elections.

Mukherjee presented the interim spending plans for the 2009-10 fiscal year for which the final touches were announced in Delhi.

Indian policy makers have scrambled to support the economy from the impact of the global financial crisis, which analysts estimate has helped fuel a blowout in the central fiscal deficit to about 10 percent of gross domestic product in 2008-09 from a planned 2.5 percent.

Faced with faltering growth, Central Government has announced two stimulus packages, including extra spending of four billion dollar, while for its part the central bank has cut its key-lending rate by 350 basis points since October to 5.50 percent.

The Government has also unveiled plans to borrow 9.45 billion dollars by the end of the fiscal year in March to fund its stimulus measures and meet extra spending needs.

The Government estimates that growth in Asia's third-largest economy will slip this fiscal year to 7.1 percent from 9 percent.

In its five budgets since 2004, the Congress party-led coalition has raised spending on health, education and rural employment but now analysts say the economy has suffered due to a lack of economic reforms.

But speculation that may change this year mounted after former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram had said that the budget might include some changes in the tax structure and further stimulus measures.

Indirect taxes, such as factory gate duties, which do not require parliamentary approval, have been changed during interim budgets in the past.

Mukherjee also talked about the lone surviour of Mumbai attacks and said he has not received any information from Pakistan on this regard. "We have not received any information from Pakistan, when we will receive it, then only I can say something," Mukherjee said.

Pakistan on Saturday said that it could ask for the custody of Kasab to strengthen its prosecution of those behind the assault. (ANI)

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