“Our growth rate will be around six per cent during the current year”

Urging people not to panic over the economic slowdown, Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Saturday said the country continued to hold the second position among developing economies across the world despite its growth rate having slumped from nine to five per cent over the last few years.

Addressing the inaugural of Indian Bank's 2110th branch at Manamadurai near here, he said even China’s growth rate had come down from 10 to seven per cent. Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Turkey, Egypt, Indonesia and Philippines were among the countries affected by the economic slowdown.

“Nevertheless, I hope that our growth rate would be around six per cent during the current year,” he added.

Admitting that the prices of petrol and diesel had gone up, he said it was because of India’s dependence on imported crude oil, which was being sold at US $ 108 a barrel in the international market.

“As of now, 70 per cent of our requirement is met through imports. The prices of petrol and diesel would come down only if crude oil rates are below US $ 100. Though steps could be taken to increase domestic production by investing thousands of crores, there is no certainty of finding oil or gas in every attempt,” he said.

Asking people not to lose hope because of the economic slump, he said that they must come forward with confidence to take loans from banks.

“There is nothing wrong in taking loans, be it for educational, agricultural or any other purpose... Strong banks with a good profile are a sign of a healthy economy,” he stated.

Stating that so far Rs. 36,000 crore had been disbursed towards loans to 80 lakh self help groups in the country, he urged rural women to start more such groups and demand loans from the nearby banks. He appreciated the Indian Bank for having disbursed loans to the tune of Rs. 2,315 crore to 7 lakh self help groups comprising 1 crore members across the country.

The bank’s chairman and managing director T.M. Bhasin said the Manamadurai branch was the 19 branch of the bank in Sivaganga district where it had done business worth Rs. 1,200 crore.