PM, senior ministers to discuss rising prices Monday

March 29th, 2008 - 5:53 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, March 29 (IANS) A series of high-level meetings have been called here Monday including one of the Cabinet Committee on Prices on how to rein in prices with India’s inflation rate rising to a 13-month high, officials said. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will himself take stock of the situation with his cabinet colleagues including Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Commerce Minister Kamal Nath.

This apart, Mukherjee, who heads the empowered group of ministers on prices, will also chair another meeting. The government is concerned over inflation rate ballooning to 6.68 percent for the week ended March 15.

“We expect commodity prices to go down when there is recession in the developed countries,” Finance Secretary D. Subbarao, who has been holding several internal meetings in the ministry, said on the margins of a seminar on market regulation.

“If you look at past recessions in the US, there is usually some depression in the commodity prices. But this time, there is an elevation in commodity prices together with recession in the US,” the finance secretary said.

Chidambaram had also said in Mumbai Friday that the central bank had been asked to look into the modalities of the monetary policy in a bid to check prices. “I have already started looking into the fiscal aspect of it,” he said.

“I assure you the government is determined to take fiscal, monetary, supply-side measures to tackle inflation. And if that means we have to live with a slightly lower growth rate, so be it,” he added.

Talking about specific measures, Commerce Secretary G.K. Pillai said Friday the government would end a tax refund incentive - the duty entitlement passbook scheme - on some 50 items, including steel, cement and non-basmati rice to check prices.

“When there is a shortage in the country and prices are high, why give export incentives?” Pillai queried while speaking to reporters on the margins of an event at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci).

Kamal Nath, too, announced some measures and said the minimum price for non-basmati rice export was being raised to $1,000 a tonne from $650 and import duty on steel will be scraped.

“We are trying to see how much the supply side can be managed,” he said.

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