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March 23, 2002 | 1217 IST
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Postal hikes to be reviewed, says Sinha

BS Bureaus

Finance minister Yashwant Sinha on Friday said he would take a relook at the postal tariff hike during the passage of the Finance Bill.

"I will take up postal and other tax issues when the Finance Bill is discussed in the House," Sinha told the Rajya Sabha during his reply to the debate on the Budget for 2002-03.

The House later returned the vote on account for the first two months of the fiscal 2002-03 amounting to over Rs 1,348.48 billion.

It also passed the third and final batch of supplementary demands for grants and relevant Appropriation Bills for the current fiscal, sealing parliamentary approval for the first stage of the Budget.

Sinha, however, declined to elaborate on the steps that might be taken on the postal front, saying he had to take the unpopular measures of hiking rates because of the difficult fiscal situation.

The Budget has raised the price of envelopes from Rs 4 to Rs 5, and doubled the price of both competition post cards from Rs 5 to Rs 10 and Rs 3 to Rs 6. It has also raised inland letter rate from Rs 2 to Rs 2.50.

Sinha said the economy was reeling under an interest burden.

"We are paying about Rs 1,173.90 billion by way of borrowings," the minister said while pointing out that the interest burden in 1991 was barely Rs 180 billion. Sinha said without the interest burden the Centre would have had an additional Rs 1,000 billion of resources for development.

The finance minister concurred with views of Congress MP Kapil Sibal that it would be difficult to attain the 8 per cent growth rate without enhancing domestic saving rate to 32 per cent. He said while the household saving was pegged at 20.09 per cent and the private sector at 4.2 per cent, the public sector had registered a decline of 1.7 per cent.

Sinha admitted that he had become unpopular after this Budget. "This was not the year to seek popularity," he clarified and expressed his satisfaction at the 20 per cent enhanced allocation for the Plan.

The minister said he would like to give elaborate response to members' queries during discussion on Finance Bill in the next sitting of the session.

Earlier, the government and the Opposition had agreed to hurry through the legislative business in post-lunch session to enable members to attend felicitation of retiring members of the Rajya Sabha.

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