Budget to give clearer picture on economic reforms: PM

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New Delhi, Feb 16 (PTI) Under attack for high food pricesand slow reforms, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said theUPA has not given up its economic agenda and promised clearmeasures in the upcoming Budget.

Exuding confidence that inflation rate should be "no morethan 7 per cent" by March-end from 8.23 per cent in January,Singh said the government''s effort has been to rein in highprices without hurting growth, which he projected to be at 8.5per cent this fiscal.

Addressing electronic media editors here, Singh saidglobal factors like high crude and food prices were not underthe control of the government and that efforts were being madeto insulate the poor through programmes like NREGA and keepingprices at state-run ration shops unchanged since 2002.

"We want to deal it (inflation) in a manner that thegrowth rhythm is not disturbed. If we were concerned only incurbing inflation we could have done with pursuing tightermonetary policies...if in the process the growth rate getshurt that would not do our country any good," he said.

Rejecting criticism that the government has given up oneconomic reforms, the Prime Minister said: "We will persist...

I sincerely hope in the (upcoming) Budget we will see aclearer picture of the reform agenda."

He, however, blamed the Opposition for not cooperatingwith the government on "path breaking reforms on Goods andServices Tax (GST)".

The Opposition, "particularly the BJP, has taken a veryhostile attitude," he said.

For the introduction of GST, the Constitution AmendmentBill has to be passed by a two-third majority in both housesof Parliament and ratification by at least 15 StateAssemblies.

The draft of GST, which subsumes most of the stateand central taxes, is being opposed by NDA ruled states.

Indicating big initiatives for infrastructuredevelopment in the Budget, Singh said: "I believe we are goingto have a fresh wave of infrastructure investment with thehelp of PPP (public-private partnership) model."

Stating that discussions are going on to create ainfrastructure development fund, he said Finance MinisterPranab Mukherjee may make some announcements. "Somediscussions are going on...and most probably, Finance Ministerwill outline something in that direction."

India needs investment to the tune of over one trilliondollars in the 12th five year plan (in 2012-17) to sustain agrowth rate of 8-9 per cent.

When asked from where the country would mop up resources,he said: "We must create a viable corporate debt market. Ithink that is the direction in which we must move."

Commenting on the drop in FDI, Singh admitted there was aneed for "favourable" environment for fund flow from abroad.

"We need to strengthen the resolve to create favourableenvironment for larger flow of funds from abroad," he said.

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