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Pranab Mukherjee vows to protect economy

This article was posted on May 26, 2009 and is filed under Press Releases

By Surojit Gupta and Rajkumar Ray

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s new finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said on Saturday he would take steps to protect the economy from the adverse impacts of the global slump and promised to return the country to a high growth path.

Growth is expected to slow to less than 7 percent in the year to April 2009 from rates of 9 percent or more in the previous three years. It is seen slowing further to about 6 percent in 2009/10.

“Major economic issues have to be addressed, and various efforts will be made to insulate the economy from the adverse impact of the financial meltdown,” Mukherjee told reporters outside his house after he was appointed finance minister.

He gave no details but he said in February spending might have to be increased to shield the economy from a global slump and stem job losses.

India’s Congress-led coalition government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was sworn in on Friday after winning a decisive mandate in a general election this month.

Besides Mukherjee, Singh named Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna, another Congress party stalwart, to be the new foreign minister at a time of mounting instability in neighbouring Pakistan.

The Congress-led coalition has a stronger parliamentary majority than the previous administration, meaning the government could last its full five-year term and focus on policy issues without the pressures of a fragile coalition.

Unfettered by its former leftist allies, Congress is likely to push reforms such as raising the foreign investment limit in insurance and opening up the pension sector to spur growth in Asia’s third-largest economy.

“The Indian economy is resilient and strong and we shall have to build up to come back to the high growth track as early as possible,” Mukherjee said.

With the country’s budget deficit forecast to reach nine percent of gross domestic product in the year to April 2010, the government will have to decide whether to spend more on social programmes that helped Congress win the election.


Mukherjee, 73, is a veteran Congress leader. He was foreign minister and acting finance minister in the previous Manmohan Singh-led government, and is seen as a safe pair of hands.

The new coalition hopes to present and win parliament approval for the federal budget for 2009/10 by the end of July.

Sharad Pawar, a Congress ally, retained his agriculture portfolio while senior party leader Arackaparambil Kurian Antony would be the defence minister, a government statement said.

Palaniappan Chidambaram, 63, also retained his home (interior) ministry. He is seen as having successfully revamped India’s security apparatus after last November’s Mumbai attacks.

Mamata Banerjee, leader of the Trinamool Congress and an ally in the coalition, was named to head the railways ministry.

Singh plans to appoint more members to his cabinet early next week.

source: yahoo finance.

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