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'Worst over for Indian economy'

business Updated: Feb 26, 2010 12:48 IST
New Delhi

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Friday began presenting India's Budget for the next fiscal, recalling the hard days of past two years, but with an assurance that the worst was over for the economy and the days ahead were promising though not without challenges.

"Today, as I stand before you, I can say with some confidence that we have weathered this crisis well," Mukherjee told the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament.

"That is not to say that the challenges today are any less than they were nine months ago, when the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) was voted back to power under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh," he added.

He said three challenges he had listed last year remained relevant today -- those of quickly reverting to a high growth path of 9 per cent and cross over to double-digit expansion; making growth more inclusive and developing infrastructure in rural areas; and strengthening food security.

The finance minister said in 2009, when he presented the interim Budget in February and the full Budget in July, the Indian economy was facing grave uncertainty, the economy slowed down and business sentiment was low.

But this year, the Budget has came against the backdrop of the Economic Survey for 2009-10, saying India's growth can go up to double digit levels in four years, with the country emerging as the fastest growing economy in the world.

The initial market reaction, as the finance minister began his budget speech was guarded, with the sensitive index (Sensex) of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) ruling at 16,347.72 points, against the previous day's close at 16,254.2 points, with a gain of 93.52 points, or 0.58 per cent.

Those in the packed house presided over by Speaker Meira Kumar, included Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj.

This was Mukherjee's fourth Budget of his career as finance minister and the second for the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in its second straight term after being voted back to office in May last year.

Although the Budget speech also contained some policy pronouncements and other steps directed at reforms, it is basically an annual statement of accounts for the upcoming fiscal in terms of receipts and expenditure, along with direct and indirect tax proposals.

The Budget was presented after a quick meeting of the Union Cabinet inside the Parliament house presided over by the prime minister for a customary approval for the proposals.