NEW DELHI, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- India's finance minister offered an optimistic outlook for the country's economy Monday, saying the fiscal deficit is declining while the growth rate is rising.
Palaniappan Chidambaram, presenting a shortened version of the budget in advance of general elections, which must be conducted by May, told Parliament he could "confidently assert" that the economy is more stable than it was two years ago.
"The fiscal deficit is declining, the current account deficit has been contained, inflation has moderated, the quarterly growth rate is on the rise, the exchange rate is stable, exports have increased and hundreds of projects have been unblocked," he said.
The coalition government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which came to power in 2004, will complete its second five-year term in May.
The second term has been difficult for the government, which has dealt with an economic slowdown, stubborn inflation and a weakening currency while battling one corruption scandal after another.
Chidambaram said economic growth in the current fiscal year, ending March 31, is expected to be 4.9 percent.
The Harvard-educated finance minister forecast the deficit for the fiscal year would be about 4.6 percent of the gross domestic product, down from an earlier forecast of 4.8 percent.
"More importantly, the current account deficit that threatened to exceed last year's [current account deficit] of $88 billion will be contained at $45 billion, and I am happy to inform [Parliament] that we expect to add about $15 billion to the foreign exchange reserves by the end of the financial year," he said.