Pranab Mukherjee back in business at North Block

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee at his office after assuming charge in New Delhi on Monday.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee at his office after assuming charge in New Delhi on Monday.   | Photo Credit: — Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Getting down to business immediately after taking charge at North Block on Monday, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee held discussions with top officials on the various ills afflicting the country’s economy in the wake of the slowdown and how best these could be addressed through measures in the budget to attain a higher growth trajectory.

Mr. Mukherjee’s top priority is presentation of the full budget for 2009-10 and guiding the economy back on track to a high growth path.

Mr. Mukherjee was briefed by Ministry officials on the preliminaries of the budget exercise that have already been completed. He is understood to have given directions on the policy line of the UPA government and how he would like the annual package to be prepared to meet the aspirations of various sections of the society at large.

“Immediately after assuming charge, Mr. Mukherjee had a series of meetings with all the senior officials of the Ministry and reviewed the status of various programmes and issues relating to all the departments of the Ministry. Issues relating to the forthcoming Budget were also discussed at the meetings,” an official statement said here.

Apart from Finance Secretary Ashok Chawla, the other top officials who participated in the discussions were Revenue Secretary P.V. Bhide, Expenditure Secretary Sushma Nath, Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Virmani, Disinvestment Secretary Rahul Khullar and the chairmen of the Central Board of Direct Taxes and the Central Board of Excise and Customs .

The prime focus of the discussions was on fiscal concerns and the ways in which fiscal consolidation can be achieved while ensuring that policy incentives are in place to steer the economy out of the slowdown. For the Finance Minister, the task may turn out to be a tightrope walk as the fragile fiscal position does not provide him the necessary cushion for yet another stimulus package as is being sought by India Inc. to tackle the slack in demand.

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