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This may be my last term as minister: Pranab
Published on 30 Oct. 2009 11:47 PM IST
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Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the senior most member of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s cabinet, Friday hinted his present tenure may be the last after which he would like to call it quits in politics and indulge in his “large collection of books” waiting for him in his study. “By the time this tenure is over, ladies and gentlemen, I will be 79,” the finance minister told the audience at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, when asked where he saw himself after five years and if he had aspirations to become the president of the country. “That will be the time. I will go to my study where I have a large collection of books which I haven’t had the time to read,” said the minister, when also asked to respond to his remarks a few months ago that he was fighting his last Lok Sabha election. Described as a teacher, journalist, writer, poet, besides being a shrewd politician, Mukherjee will turn 74 on Dec 11 this year. A close associate of former prime minister Indira Gandhi, he is also the leader of the house in the current Lok Sabha, and has chaired more than 60 ministerial groups set up by Manmohan Singh since May 2004. In his long political life, he has handled a host of portfolios, including external affairs, defence, commerce, industry, shipping, transport, parliamentary affairs, steel and mines. Economic recovery is unsteady, slow Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Friday said that the country’s economy is on track to return to a high growth trajectory but the recovery remains halting and slow. Speaking at the HT Leadership Summit here, The FM said that the challenge is to return to 9 percent growth in next two years from 6.5 percent in the current year, adding that the growth witnessed in the past few months has been halting and slow. “We must grow by 9 percent in two years ... I am optimistic,” he said. Mukherjee also apperead concerned about agricultural growth as it would be negative at minus two percent as a result of adverse impact of drought particularly on kharif crop which would be down 15-16 million tonnes. Reforms Pranab also sought broad political consensus to clear the crucial legislations, including the labour and the insurance bills, to push forward the reforms for returning to 9 percent economic growth. “We don’t have the required majority in the two Houses (of Parliament) to clear the bills ... a broad political consensus is needed,” Mukherjee said. He said fiscal deficit must be contained and brought back to 5.5 percent by 2011-12 from 6.8 percent now. Stressing on fiscal consolidation, he said the target must be to “bring back fiscal deficit within prudent limits.” Exiting stimulus The government today said it may take a call on exiting from fiscal stimulus after reviewing the economic growth in the second and third quarters of this financial year. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee would also share his perception on exit strategy at the G-20 Finance Ministers’ meeting in Scotland, starting from November 6. “So far we are concerned, I think I shall have to watch situation for the (economic) progress in the second quarter and third quarter. Perhaps, I may be in a position, I am not asserting that position, to articulate it (exit strategy), sometimes when the d-day will come,” Mukherjee said. On GST implementation Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today did not rule out the possibility of delay in introduction of the Goods and Services Tax from scheduled date of April 1, 2010. “I am trying to stick to the time schedule, but I will not be surprised if there is slippage of a few months,” Mukherjee said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit here. The Finance Minister’s comments came on a day when states finance ministers deliberated on various aspects of GST structure at a meeting here. Pranab Mukherjee, a man for all seasons for the Congress Party, also expressed the desire to quit active politics at the end of the current term of the UPA government in 2014. “....when this tenure will be over, I will be 79. Perhaps that is the time for having a little bit of rest”, he said when asked if he desired to move into the Rashtrapati Bhawan some day.

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