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Jaswant promises no `shocks' in oil prices

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MUMBAI, April 3

THE Union Finance Minister, Mr Jaswant Singh, today assuaged fears of oil prices shooting up because of the war in Iraq.

Mr Singh reassured a gathering here that volatility in crude oil prices has already been absorbed by the country and the forthcoming fortnight will see further easing in prices. "The worst is over. We have absorbed the shocks," he said.

Inaugurating a three-day banking and finance summit organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry, Mr Singh said the worst is over as far as the hydrocarbon sector is concerned. He said the Indian economy has reached a point of criticality and hereafter the future will witness a growth as never before.

"The economic fundamentals have never been so sound. We have enough foreign exchange reserves to meet import requirements for 15 months. The Agriculture Ministry has said that the rabi crop would be better than the previous year's," he said.

The Minister, however, lambasted banks for not helping enough to push growth. He said that banks have not done enough to bring down interest rates in spite of the Government's soft interest rate policy.

Speaking on the Securitisation Act, he said the Act was meant to enable banks to "collect debt from the guilty" and not a move to "kill industry and commerce."

"The essence of power is to understand the limits of power," Mr Singh said. Banks must use powers with greatest possible discretion and continue to encourage industrial growth not choke it, he said.

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