Ashok Dasgupta

NEW DELHI: Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who plans to present a full budget for 2009-10 by July first week, said he intended ensuring easier availability of cheaper funds to industry.

“Industry and business have been hurt by the cost of finance … While much has been done in the last eight months and international capital flows have resumed, the cost and the speed with which finance can be accessed remain a matter of concern. One of the first steps I propose to take is to meet bankers and get them committed to a more benign plan of action,” he told journalists on Wednesday.

With the global financial crisis still impacting the economy, the government was assessing the effect of the three stimulus packages announced in December and January and in the interim budget to boost economic growth, he said. “Sustained stimulus to growth can be harnessed by the next round of economic reforms. We have a broad plan of action in mind. I will get additional inputs when I have my pre-budget consultations with different stakeholders. All this will be distilled into a concrete short-term and medium-term vision and strategy for India’s economic growth.”

The government would have to focus on implementing and strengthening its infrastructure investments and these concerns would be addressed to impart a further momentum to an early return to the high growth path of recent years.

“The pipeline of infrastructure projects will be re-appraised and made more robust. Wherever necessary, policy and procedures will be calibrated to give a boost to infrastructure spending. We need to seize the opportunity presented by the current circumstances for pushing long-pending reform measures.” These included measures in the area of financial sector and real economy “to make the economy more competitive and the economic regulatory and oversight system more efficient, quick and responsive to global developments.”

As the interim budget was for four months up to July 31, he would try to complete the entire budgetary exercise by that time provided the other political parties cooperated with him. “ … here the cooperation of other political parties represented on the floor of both Houses [is needed]. As soon as the Parliament session starts, I will discuss with leaders of all political parties and if they agree to dispense with scrutiny by standing committees, then that would facilitate me to complete the entire exercise by July 31,” Mr. Mukherjee said.

In a first-of-its-kind in budget-making, Mr. Mukherjee has decided to involve State Finance Ministers in the process. It is slated for sometime in July first week.

Mr. Mukherjee had obtained the go-ahead from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for this novel initiative.

The new UPA government intends to expedite the long-pending reforms in the financial and other sectors to give a boost to the economy, which has been reeling under the impact of the global financial crisis.