The Indian Budget 1996-97 The Indian Economy Overview


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Speech of
Shri P. Chidambaram
Minister of Finance
22nd July, 1996

  1. I rise to present the regular budget for the year 1996-97.

  2. An unusually peaceful general election produced an unusually complex mandate. It was the duty of every political party to be faithful to that mandate. Accordingly, political parties of different complexions and different ideologies have come together to form this government. Many of them are regional parties, albeit with a national outlook. What has united us is a resolve to preserve India's secular heritage and to provide a representative government committed to faster economic growth and enhanced social justice.

  3. The United Front is a coalition. Before assuming office, the partners of the coalition finalised a document called "A Common Approach to Major Policy Matters and a Minimum Programme", popularly called the CMP. This historic document was released to the nation by our Prime Minister, Shri Deve Gowda, on June 4, 1996. When I began work on the CMP I was not even a Minister. When we completed our exercise I found myself in the office of Finance Minister. Therefore, my commitment to the CMP goes beyond the office I hold. Hon'ble Members will have many opportunities this afternoon to test my commitment and they will find that the CMP has provided the foundation and set the agenda for this Budget.

  4. An Update of the Economic Survey 1995-96 was laid on the Table of the House last Friday. It is a slim document of no more than 21 pages and I hope it made for good weekend reading. Our conclusions are that the economic indicators point to high growth but there are significant areas of weakness. The Update has identified these areas as the fiscal deficit, sluggish agricultural growth, inadequate infrastructure, high interest rates and the trade deficit. The most worrisome is the decline in the growth of agricultural crop production to 0.9 per cent in 1995-96. The Update has also listed fiscal challenge, infrastructure challenge and employment and poverty alleviation as key issues which need to be addressed on a priority basis.

  5. The CMP has declared that the government will follow economic policies that will promote growth with social justice and lead to greater self-reliance. We have no use for jobless growth; nor for growth that leaves untouched large sections of the people. We will remove controls and regulations over agriculture and industry. We will keep our economy open and competitive in order to encourage more foreign trade and attract more foreign investment. We will reform the tax system. We will broaden and deepen reforms of the financial and capital markets even while strengthening independent regulators like the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). Above all, we will observe fiscal and monetary prudence which is the key to low inflation and rapid growth.

  6. This Budget, therefore, has seven broad objectives:
    I shall now deal with the major areas of the economy and spell out our policy initiatives in order to achieve the objectives that I have just listed.
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