Indian Budget 2008-09- Full Text-Feb 29, 2008
I rise to present the Budget for 2008-09. This House and the United Progressive Alliance Government have bestowed upon me the honour of presenting all five Budgets on behalf of a Government - a rare honour that I have the privilege to share with only one of my distinguished predecessors, Dr. Manmohan Singh.
I.THE ECONOMY: AN OVERVIEW
2. Honourable Members! The India growth story, so far, has been an absorbing and inspiring tale. Beginning January 1, 2005, the economy has recorded a growth rate of over 8 per cent in 12 successive quarters up to December 31, 2007. In the first three years of the UPA Government, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased by 7.5 per cent, 9.4 per cent and 9.6 per cent, resulting in an unprecedented average growth rate of 8.8 per cent. In the current year too, according to the Advance Estimates by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO), the growth rate will be 8.7 per cent - although I am confident that we will maintain the average of 8.8 per cent. The drivers of growth continue to be "services" and "manufacturing", which are estimated to grow at 10.7 per cent and 9.4 per cent, respectively.
3. Nevertheless, 2007-08 has been the most challenging of the last four years. At the beginning of the year, the outlook for the global economy was benign. Our economy, thanks to our own policies as well as globalisation, was poised to record another year of high growth: in fact, the first half of 2007-08 returned a growth of 9.1 per cent. However, since August 2007, the financial markets in the developed countries have witnessed considerable turbulence that has not yet abated. The consequences for developing countries are also not yet clear.
4. Moreover, agriculture has struck a disappointing note. Despite a fine start in the first half of 2007-08, the growth rate for the whole year in agriculture is estimated at only 2.6 per cent.
5. There are other downside risks too. World prices of crude oil, commodities and food grains have risen sharply in the period April 2007 to January 2008. The position of crude oil is well known to this House. Among commodities, the prices of iron ore, copper, lead, tin, urea etc are elevated. The prices of wheat and rice have increased in the world market by 88 per cent and 15 per cent, respectively. All these trends are inflationary, and there is pressure on domestic prices, especially on the prices of food articles. Consequently, the management of the supply side of food articles will be the most crucial task in the ensuing year.
6. We have also witnessed capital inflows that are far in excess of the current account deficit. This poses a challenge to monetary management. The solution lies in increasing the absorptive capacity of the economy in the medium term. In the short term, it is our responsibility to manage the flows more actively. Government will, in consultation with the RBI, continue to monitor the situation closely and take such temporary measures as may be necessary to moderate the capital flows consistent with the objective of monetary and financial stability.
7. Keeping inflation under check is one of the cornerstones of our policy. Recently, the Prime Minister declared, "I think no Government in our country can be oblivious to the objective of ensuring reasonable price stability without hurting the growth process." There can be no clearer enunciation of policy. However, since the downside risks have increased worldwide, we must be vigilant and prepared to make swift adjustments in our policies to achieve the goal of growth with price stability.
8. Let me first deal with agriculture, briefly for the present, and at some length later. The Ministry of Agriculture has estimated that the total output of food grains in 2007-08 will be 219.32 million tonnes and that will be an all time record. In particular, production of rice is estimated at 94.08 million tonnes; maize at 16.78 million tonnes; soya bean at 9.45 million tonnes; and cotton at 23.38 million bales (of 170 kg each) - and each of these will be an all time record. Government is conscious that while a lot has been done, a lot more needs to be done. Since the last Budget, Government has formulated and announced the National Policy for Farmers. Besides, Government has launched the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana with an outlay of Rs.25,000 crore and the National Food Security Mission with an outlay of Rs.4,882 crore. Both schemes will be implemented during the Eleventh Five Year Plan period. We are determined to become self-sufficient in food grains. Presently, I shall place before this House a number of new initiatives in the agriculture sector.
The Growth Story: Faster and more inclusive
9. To return to the India growth story, I am of the firm belief that we owe our sustained progress to the policy of economic reforms first ushered in by a Congress Government and now carried forward by the UPA Government.
10. If 1984 and 1991 were turning points in the history of India's economy, 2004 was another turning point. Confident that high growth was sustainable, the UPA Government had declared in the National Common Minimum Programme its intention to make growth more inclusive. Sir, I ask this House, respectfully, to judge our record on inclusive growth from the following sample of facts:
• agricultural credit doubled in the first two years of this Government and is poised to reach a level of Rs.240,000 crore by March 2008.
• the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has proved to be a historic measure of empowerment of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and, especially, of women.
• the Mid Day Meal Scheme is the largest school lunch programme in the world covering 11.4 crore children.
• the National Rural Health Mission has taken improved health care to rural India by strengthening the primary health centres of which 8,756 have been made 24 x 7.
• the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya Scheme has enrolled 182,000 girls in residential schools, thus helping to bridge the gender gap in education.
11. Bharat Nirman has made impressive progress in 2007-08. This ambitious programme is now over 1,000 days old. At the current pace, on each day of the year 290 habitations are provided with drinking water and 17 habitations are connected through an all weather road. On each day of the year 52 villages are provided with telephones and 42 villages are electrified. On each day of the year 4,113 rural houses are completed.
12. Mr. Speaker, just as I sat down to write this speech, I received a slim volume titled "Indira Gandhi - Selected Sayings". Within minutes, I found this gem and I quote, "The more one does, the more one attempts, the more one is capable of doing". What I have narrated so far is indeed proof of more inclusive growth, but if you ask me "can we do better?", my answer would be "we can and we should." Budget 2008-09 is about raising our sights and doing more and doing better.