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Budget will reflect CMP: Chidambaram
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 18
While maintaining that the first Budget of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) will reflect the basic thrust of its common minimum programme (CMP), Finance Minister P. Chidambaram today cautioned that he might not be able to realise all the promises made in the document this time round.

However, a beginning would be made with the new government's July 8 general Budget which would be driven by the twin objectives of growth and fiscal discipline, Mr Chidambaram told a meeting of the UPA coordination committee. The meeting was called primarily to get suggestions and inputs for the Budget from the members of the ruling combine and the Left parties.

"Given the twin objectives of growth and fiscal discipline, the minister assured the meeting that he will try and incorporate their suggestions," Congress leader Ambika Soni told mediapersons after the meeting.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh heard out all members but did not make comments on them. The meeting was presided over by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

Although weighed down by a host of demands, which included a reduction in the recent hike in LPG prices, Mr Chidambaram explained the constraints he is facing in the presentation of the new government's first Budget. He pointed out that there was already an interim Budget in place and by the time, their Budget proposals were eventually adopted and implemented, more than half the year would be over.

According to CPI leader A.B. Bardhan, the Finance Minister remarked that the programmes listed in the government's CMP were to be realised over a period of five years. At this juncture, he would only be able to make a beginning, he told the UPA coordination committee. The Left parties, which had a long wish list for the minister, suggested that he should state the government's intentions and also explain his constraints during the course of his Budget speech.

Left party leaders, who held a separate meeting on the issue with the Prime Minister in the morning, reiterated their demands at the evening discussions. Virtually all members agreed that the Budget should reflect the spirit of the CMP.



Reduce oil prices, Left tells PM
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 18
Left Parties today met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to persuade him to either announce a “partial decrease” in the prices of oil products or recast their excise duty in the Budget.

CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan told TNS here today afternoon that they urged Dr Manmohan Singh to recast the excise duty on oil products as this would help in absorbing the hike to some extent. Representatives of the CPI, CPI(M) and All-India Forward Bloc urged the Prime Minister to reduce the hike in the price of cooking gas. “We were invited to exchange views on the Budget. We said the Budget should conform to the CMP.”

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and United Progressive Alliance chairperson and Congress President Sonia Gandhi were also present at the 90-minute-long meeting at 7, Race Course here. CPI(M) leader in the also Lok Sabha Basudeb Acharia, politburo member Dipankar Mukherjee and AIFB general secretary Debabrat Biswas participated in the meeting. Abani Roy of the Revolutionary Socialist Party did not attend the meeting as he was in Kolkata.

Mr Bardhan said the Prime Minister told them that they had “laboured over” the decision before announcing the hike in prices of petroleum, diesel and LPG. Mr Manmohan Singh told the leaders that he did not believe in making a “fetish out of fiscal deficit” but they would have to take care of changes in the fiscal deficit as it would have an impact on India’s international credibility.

In a statement issued earlier this week, the CPI had urged the government to reduce the excise duty on LPG in the forthcoming Budget. The CPI central secretariat said the increase in the price of LPG would have an adverse effect on the family budget of the middle class and salaried class employees.

Asked if the Prime Minister gave an affirmative reply, Mr Bardhan said, “It is taken for granted. It is presumed that that the Budget will reflect the tone of the CMP.”

He said their suggestions for improvement in agriculture, health and education sectors were welcomed by the Finance Minister as “core issues which ought to be reflected in the Budget.”

Mr Bardhan said he suggested land reforms as an effective measure of poverty alleviation and expansion of domestic market, besides increase in investment on agriculture.

The CPI national council, which had recently adopted a resolution on suicides by farmers in Andhra Pradesh, urged the UPA government to convert moneylender loans into long-term bank loans with low interest and adoption of measures for debt relief.

Leaders of the Left parties suggested mobilisation of funds for spending at least 6 per cent of the GDP on education. They also suggested extension of healthcare to rural areas and implementation of the National Employment Guarantee Scheme.


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