February 28, 2013

Not too long ago, when India’s economy was roaring amid predictions of high growth rates for years to come, the finance minister could be forgiven for strutting during budget week. He got to march into India’s Parliament with the ceremonial briefcase bearing a budget stuffed with goodies.

But on Thursday, when the current finance minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, arrives in Parliament, his steps will be heavier, and the mood is likely to be, too. Faced with slowing growth, persistent inflation and sagging investor confidence, India’s government is pinned between conflicting pressures: economists warn that tough steps are needed to avoid long-term fiscal problems, even as political leaders are leery of introducing unpopular measures before important elections this year.

On Wednesday, the government sought to change the pessimistic narrative, as the Finance Ministry released its annual economic survey and projected that economic growth would jump somewhere above 6 percent during the next fiscal year, predicting that the downturn was “more or less over and the economy is looking up.” Some economists were skeptical, given that similar rosy predictions in recent budgets have proved wrong.

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