New Delhi: Next month’s union budget will focus on maintaining high growth and give “relief” to sectors under “stress” such as those affected by the rupee appreciation, according to Finance Minister P Chidambaram.
In the minister’s book there is no such thing as an “election budget” although he acknowledges that his next budgetary exercise will be the last “full budget” of the UPA government. If elections are held on time before May, 2009 then there will be a vote-on-account next year.
As he prepares his fifth consecutive budget, Chidambaram says he has no worries other than about some sectors under “stress” which he would address.
Chidambaram admits that delivery of promised goods and services has not been satisfactory. But he is of the view that there is enough time for improvement in this area.
He said 16 months between now and the scheduled time of Lok sabha elections was a lot of time. “Delivery has not been satisfactory. 16 months is enough time to improve the delivery of goods and services.”
Confident of a 9% economic growth in the current fiscal, Chidambaram said “the thrust of the budget (2008-09) will be to maintain high growth and ensure that the growth process endorses and includes larger and larger sections of the people.”
Chidambaram said “there is no sector which is worrying me. There are some sectors which are under stress. For example, one reason the rupee appreciation has caused some stress to some sectors. We will address these causes to the extent possible and give them some relief.”
His remarks assume significance against the backdrop of the steady rise in the value of the rupee in the last one year touching upto Rs45 against US dollar in July last year. The Commerce ministry estimates that the appreciation could lead to a loss of Rs53,000 crore to exporters in 2007-08.
Otherwise, the minister felt, all sectors were doing reasonably well in terms of production. “If there is a slow-down in demand in some sectors like housing and real estate, that is a result of a conscious policy to moderate the demand in these sectors.
Refusing to accept that the next budget will be an election-budget, the minister said he did not think that budget decide elections.
“What decides elections are our capacity to deliver what you say. Budgets only give outlays and budgets don’t ensure outcomes. Between outlays and outcomes there is something called governance and delivery.
“We must deliver on the kilometres we promised, on the villages that we promised electricity and water, on the invest that we say will be made on the units of electricity will be generated,” he said.
Chidambaram said budgets certainly raise expectations and we support these expectations with financial outlays. It is the outcome of the budget that will decided whether we had delivered or not.