India in a better position than most despite global meltdown: Cabinet Secretary

New Delhi, Feb.21 (ANI): Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrashekhar on Saturday said that the global meltdown has not had as much of an adverse impact on India as it has had on other countries.

Speaking to ANI on the sidelines of a function at the Constitution Club here, Chandrashekhar said: “I don’t think there is any irrational pessimism, because there has been some amount of global concern all over. Lots of things are happening all over the world. But, I think India is in a better position compared to the other countries in the world.”

He said the Indian economy is showing some positive changes and encouraging signs, but cautiously added that it would take a few months to assess the impact of these signals.

“There are some very encouraging signs. So, these signs are there. But, how the economy evolves, that we’ll have to wait and see in the next few months. I’m very optimistic that certain very positive changes are taking place,” said Chandrashekhar.

Chandrashekhar also underscored the importance of the role of state governments in taking suitable action to ensure that various stimulus measures announced by the federal government are quickly translated into tangible activity at the ground level and ensure that they actually benefit the people.

Chandrashekhar said both states and the center would have to work in tandem to mutually reinforce and complement one another for stimulating the economy.

“A lot of activity has to take place in the states, particularly in terms of ensuring that there is greater lending by the banks in terms of ensuring that there is more spending. So these things will actually have to be energized by the states and really we hope that combined activity by the center and the states will deliver very strong results,” he said.

The Indian economy is expected to grow at least seven percent in fiscal 2009-10. The global downturn has pushed economic growth in India down to a six-year low of 7.1 percent estimated for the year to March, from over nine percent in the previous three years.

An interim budget presented by de facto Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee projected higher spending in the next fiscal year to shield the economy from a global slump and stem job losses.

Official data shows that the cement sector has grown 9.97 percent in December 2008. The year on year increase is Eleven percent. Steel, which had declined steadily through September, October and November last year has shown a recovery in December 2008 and January 2009 and has now touched the May 2008 figure of 22.86 metric tons when the sectoral growth rate was 4.1 percent.

Cement and steel are seen as key drivers with the construction sector seen to have a significant impact on the growth sentiment.

Similarly, the gloom over the automobile sector seems to be lifting, with the January 2009 figures in the passenger vehicles sector showing a 32 percent rise over December 2008 while the increase for commercial vehicles is 23 percent over a similar time frame.

The FMCG sector is also growing again.

The year on year growth is 26.4 percent for the quarter ended December 31, 2008. Food and beverages have also registered a record 28 percent growth in the quarter ended December 31, 2008. The growth in railway freight is up by seven percent in December 2008.

The Government feels its efforts to pump money into the rural economy and the public sector is paying off even though the export sector remains a worry due to a fall in orders.

Last month, the Centre met state chief secretaries and asked them to expedite implementation of infrastructure projects and to ensure that supplementary grants are spent within fiscal 2008-09.

Special emphasis was laid on increasing the pace of implementation of major projects and schemes.

Chandrashekar reportedly discussed the impact of stimulus packages announced by the government earlier and problems being faced by implementing agencies in pursuing the projects and schemes.

The Planning Commission Secretary Subhash Pani presented an overview of the infrastructure schemes and programs of the government. Secretaries of related ministries also reported on schemes being taken up for implementation. (ANI)

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