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President's budget bits

President Kalam's address to joint session of Parliament covered a large number of economic issues that are likely to be dealt with by the FM in his budget speech on February 28.

india Updated: Feb 17, 2006 13:15 IST

Finance Minister P Chidambaram's budget for 2006-07 is likely be a populist one with goodies for all - especially for the poll-bound states.

If President APJ Abdul Kalam's address to the joint sitting of Parliament on Thursday is any indication, the government is on a firm path to pursue reforms wherever there is a deal with the Left parties.

In his address, which marked the beginning of the budget session, Kalam announced plans for modernisation of the airports in Kolkata and Chennai, a couple of months ahead of assembly polls in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. This will be in addition to green field airports at Bangalore and Hyderabad

The president's address covered a large number of economic issues that are likely to be dealt with by Chidambaram in his budget speech on February 28. Focus on physical infrastructure, agriculture and manufacturing will continue.
There were indications that 'Sagar Mala' and 'river-linking' - pet projects of former PM A.B. Vajpayee - will be revived, minus the branding.

Kalam's assurance that work would begin on inter-linking two peninsular rivers reflected that the river-linking project is set to return on the econom ic agenda. He, however, made no mention of the alternative scheme announced by Chidambaram to revive the water bodies on a pilot basis.

Similarly, massive investments were announced for modernisation and expansion of ports infrastructure, as exports are likely to touch $100 billion next fiscal. This again meant revival of 'Sagar Mala'.

The president also spoke about a tenyear manufacturing initiative -- with specifics left for Chidambaram to announce -- for sustaining the 8-plus GDP growth the economy is expected to clock. The idea is to develop a competi tive, world class and quality manufacturing capacity to feed the external markets. The initiative will be based on recommendations of the National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council.

Chidambaram is likely to announce a policy for sector-specific investment regions in petroleum, chemicals and petro-chemicals to attract US $10 billion from top developers. This will be based on recommendations of a task force constituted by PMO following Manmohan Singh's visit to US.

The president also hinted that the government might come up with an initiative for the entertainment sector.