Saturday, September 14, 2013

Pranab skips written speech to air views on economy

Sep 15, 2013,

KOLKATA: President Pranab Mukherjee did on Saturday what men in the highest office seldom do. Addressing the Bengal Chamber of Commerce, he kept aside his written speech to make observations on the Indian economy that sounded like a clarification of the steps he had taken during his stint as Union finance minister.

At the outset, Mukherjee pointed out he was breaking with convention since Presidents normally do not address AGMs of business bodies. Pranab said he had made an exception because of his \"love\" for Kolkata and the Bengal Chamber of Commerce, the oldest business body in the country. \"The President does not have the privilege to air his views. The President of India is not a policymaker but I will take this opportunity to air some of my observations about the Indian economy,\" he said.

Without naming anyone, he said the GDP growth had slowed down from 9% to 6.6% during 2008-09 as a fallout of global recession, but improved in the two subsequent fiscals.

\"In 2008-09, the GDP growth came down, then there was improvement in 2009-10 and 2010-11. Now again there is a slump,\" he said, adding that the world economy is yet to fully recover from the downturn. (Incidentally, P Chidambaram was finance minister till November 2008 and was succeeded in 2009 by Pranab Mukherjee.)

On August 27, Chidambaram had said on the floor of Parliament: \"There are not just external factors, there are also domestic factors. One of the domestic factors is that we allowed fiscal deficit to be breached and we allowed current account deficit to swell because of certain decisions that we took during the period 2009 to 2011.\" The finance minister had later clarified that he had not blamed anybody and the financial measures taken earlier were decided by the government as a whole and were right at that point of time.

Mukherjee said that although there were areas of concern, there was \"no room for gloom and despondency\".

\"The corrective measures are necessary but one should not panic. There is sign of recovery in North America and Japan,\" he said. Mukherjee described the rapid depreciation in the rupee, fiscal and current account deficit and inflation as \"beyond the normal prudence\", but expected the good monsoon to have a positive impact on the economy.

\"The Prime Minister has already outlined the broad features of economic reforms. The good monsoon will have a sobering impact on growth and inflation,\" he said and praised some states for improving their GDPs and positively impacting the Indian economy.
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