Mukherjee sets July 31 target to complete budget process


New Delhi : Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee Wednesday said reviving India’s economic growth will be his top priority in the coming months and assured every step to complete the budget process for this fiscal by July 31.

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“All my senior colleagues in the ministry are fully cooperating with me to fulfil my commitment. We will be able to present the budget in the first week of July,” Mukherjee told his first formal press conference after taking oath May 22.

“I will try to complete the entire process by July 31. Of course, I will need the cooperation of other political parties,” he said. “If they agree to dispense with the scrutiny by standing committee, that would facilitate me.”

The budget process involves amendments to several legislations, including the finance bill, and these cannot take effect unless they are passed by both houses of parliament and get the final nod from the president.

During the course of his 30-minute press conference, Mukherjee also said helping the Indian economy out of its current woes, while ensuring fiscal prudence, will be the top priority for the new United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

He said the global financial crisis had resulted in loss of confidence in business and industry, and that he was aware the country’s corporate sector was burdened by high interest rates.

“The cost of finance is a matter of concern and one of my priorities is also to meet bankers and give a plan of action,” Mukherjee said, adding a stable government and policy would steer the Indian economy out of the current situation.

“Let me say unambiguously we are committed to increasing growth and employment, which is not possible without continuing public spending and incremental increase in borrowing,” the minister said.

“Getting India back to the growth path cannot happen overnight. Where necessary, policies and procedures will be implemented to support this,” he said, while adding: “India remains the second fastest growing economy of the world.”

Mukherjee, the senior-most minister in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s cabinet, also said that achieving 6-7 percent growth was “no mean achievement” in this difficult period.

He admitted that high government borrowing was also a matter of concern, and said: “Fiscal deficit will be kept in mind while planning on any line of action to boost economic growth.”