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No hidden agenda in mini-Budget: Jaswant

January 09, 2004 18:04 IST

Dismissing criticism that his slew of duty sops was election-oriented, Finance Minister Jaswant Singh on Friday said there was no "hidden agenda" in his mini-Budget and maintained that he had not violated any parliamentary conventions in his giveaways of nearly Rs 10,000 crore (Rs 100 billion).

Asked at an interaction with senior editors whether there would be a third instalment of concessions, he said: "If I am asked by the Cabinet then there could be a third instalment."

He said there was "no hidden sting in the tail" of the concessions announced and sought to allay apprehensions that there could be a harsh Budget after the elections.

"When is economics free from politics? All economic activity is governed by policy of the government and in a democracy, management of economy is always political. There is no hidden politics, nor is it blatantly political," he said after unveiling a second round of measures to boost agriculture and infrastructure development and some additional sops.

Claiming that as yet he was not sure himself when elections would be held, Singh said he was prepared for presenting both interim and full-fledged Budget. "Whatever I have done has not violated parliamentary conventions or rules."

The duty sops would cost the exchequer between Rs 9,000 crore (Rs 90 billion) and Rs 10,000 crore a full year, mainly on account of the reduction of peak customs duty and abolition of four per cent special additional customs duty, he said, adding it would be more than made up by collections during the year.

Singh said the reason why he was coming out with these major decisions was partly out of his conviction that the Indian economy was on the roll and why an electoral routine should inhibit it.

"It is the job of the government to encourage this (growth momentum). There will be an interim Budget if elections are announced and a full-fledged Budget if elections are held as scheduled. We are prepared for both," he said.

He denied a suggestion that today's announcements were made to balance yesterday's concessions to the middle class, saying the exercise was on for the last 45 days and overnight it could not be done.

The minister said he could assure the nation that as far as revenue and expenditure estimates in the Budget were concerned, the government would meet them.

He was confident that the sops would not shoot up the fiscal deficit, violating the provisions in the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act.

Singh expected a bumper rabi crop and lower food subsidy.

Officials said the food subsidy bill may come down by Rs 2,000 crore (Rs 20 billion) while the subsidy on interest rates on student loans could be Rs 40 crore (Rs 400 million).

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