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Indian Budget 2010-11- Full Text- February 26, 2010

Overview of the Economy

14. Yesterday, I laid on the table of the House the Economic Survey, which gives a detailed analysis of the economic situation of the country over the past twelve months. I intend to highlight only a few salient features that form the backdrop of this Budget.

15. The fiscal year 2009-10 was a challenging year for the Indian economy. The significant deceleration in the second half of 2008-09, brought the real GDP growth down to 6.7 per cent, from an average of over 9 per cent in the preceding three years. We were among the first few countries in the world to implement a broad-based counter-cyclic policy package to respond to the negative fallout of the global slowdown. It included a substantial fiscal expansion along with liberal monetary policy support.

16. The effectiveness of these policy measures became evident with fast paced recovery. The economy stabilised in the first quarter of 2009-10 itself, when it clocked a GDP growth of 6.1 per cent, as against 5.8 per cent in the fourth quarter of the preceding year. It registered a strong rebound in the second quarter, when the growth rate rose to 7.9 per cent. With the Advance Estimates placing the likely growth for 2009-10 at 7.2 per cent, we are indeed vindicated in our policy stand. The final figure may well turn out to be higher when the third and fourth quarter GDP estimates for 2009-10 become available.

17. This recovery is very encouraging for it has come about despite a negative growth in the agriculture sector. More importantly, it is the result of a renewed momentum in the manufacturing sector and marks the rise of this sector as the growth driver of the economy. The growth rate in manufacturing in December 2009 was 18.5 per centó the highest in the past two decades. There are also signs of a turnaround in the merchandise exports with a positive growth in November and December 2009 after a decline of about twelve successive months. Export figures for January are also encouraging. Significant private investment can now be expected to provide the engine for sustaining a growth of 9 per cent per annum. With some luck, I hope to breach the 10 per cent mark in not-too-distant a future.

18. A major concern during the second half of 2009-10 has been the emergence of double digit food inflation. There was a momentum in food prices since the flare-up of global commodity prices preceding the financial crisis in 2008, but it was expected that the agriculture season beginning June 2009 would help in moderating the food inflation. However, the erratic monsoons and drought like conditions in large parts of the country reinforced the supply side bottlenecks in some of the essential commodities. This set in motion inflationary expectations. Since December 2009, there have been indications of these high food prices, together with the gradual hardening of the fuel product prices, getting transmitted to other non-food items as well. The inflation data for January seems to have confirmed this trend.

19. Government is acutely conscious of this situation and has set in motion steps, in consultation with the State chief ministers, which should bring down the inflation in the next few months and ensure that there is better management of food security in the country.

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