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Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee described the FE Best Banks Awards function held on Tuesday as having evolved into a "popular event" for India Inc to highlight the importance of bringing banking to those "who need the very basic financial services."

"I am very happy to see that this event, organised for the last 13 years, is gradually evolving into a popular event that could significantly contribute towards highlighting the importance of expansion of banking activities for economic development," noted the minister.

Addressing leaders of India's financial and corporate sectors, including FE Lifetime Achievement Award winner C Rangarajan, chairman of Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council, FE Best Banker of the Year Chanda Kochhar, MD & CEO, ICICI Bank, and Best Innovator of the Year Shikha Sharma, MD & CEO, Axis Bank, Mukherjee was confident "opening avenues for banking facilities to larger sections of society" will make growth faster. For the current fiscal, he projected a robust 8.5% growth rate of GDP with the blessing of good monsoon. "Though IMF has predicted higher growth, I would like to be conservative," he said.

The FM used the platform to explain why banking for the other half also the theme for a sparkling panel discussion later in the evening was so close to his heart. The topic "is important for all of us and especially to me in view of the impact it can make in furthering the growth process by opening avenues for banking facilities to larger sections of the society."

"This is in the context of the growing need to cater to the bottom of the pyramid citizens and therefore, it is necessary to use all our resources and policy options more effectively and in an equitable manner."

A robust banking sector working under an efficient regulatory framework can become a boon to a large section of smaller but important customers that have a direct bearing on the economic environment by their participation in economic activities, he said. "Clearly, these developments highlight, more than ever before, the importance and relevance of banking for the uncovered population. However, in order to achieve this objective, there are numerous challenges especially relating to an integrated and a coherent policy approach."

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