Ensuring the trickle-down

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Increased spending is focussed rightly on education, health, family welfare and urban renewal. Emphasis seems to be on building greater human capacity and competence.

Mukesh Ambani

The Finance Minister Mr P. Chidambaram is quite clearly enthused about India's strong economic performance.

He has conceived Budget 2006-07 to substantially enhance economic growth, while ensuring that it caters to the rising aspirations of hundreds of millions of Indians.

Improved economic performance is sought to be achieved by raising investments in infrastructure and setting in motion a virtuous cycle through greater social and rural investments, consequent demand creation, stimulating productive sectors that enjoy a large rural footprint and infusing international competitiveness in industry.

Here, again, Mr Chidambaram has sought to go beyond articulating traditional approaches to touching upon innovative initiatives or interventions. In infrastructure, while paying attention to such traditional sectors as power and transportation, he has taken up innovative options such as towns based on new themes, cluster development models and region development initiatives.

In social sector spending, while raising spending, he has taken care to ensure that it is focussed on education, health, family welfare and urban renewal.

Here, again, the emphasis seems to be on building greater human capacity and competence.

In manufacturing, while addressing industries with widespread economic footprints, such as textiles, food processing, petroleum, chemicals, petrochemicals and information technology enabled services, Mr Chidambaram has sought to push for global competitiveness by adjusting import duties downwards.

An accent on agriculture and food processing clearly stems from an anxiety to rapidly translate macroeconomic growth into micro-level benefits.

Improvement of water bodies, increased farm credit, treating food processing as priority sector for bank credit and excise duty exemption for many processed food items are attempts in this context.

One initiative that merits admiration concerns e-governance covering 25 mission projects that touch the lives of ordinary Indians. In a similar vein, Mr Chidambaram has sought to use technology to bring about better tax compliance and administration, a dire need.

In essence, the Budget is all about elevating economic growth rate and ensuring that a high growth rate trickles down to vast sections of our society.

(The author is Chairman and Managing Director, Reliance Industries Limited.)

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 1, 2006)
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