Equitable growth to drive reform agenda

Written by Economy Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Jun 5 2009, 07:14am hrs
Pratibha Patil
President Pratibha Devisingh Patil invoked the poem Where the Mind is Without Fear from Rabindranath Tagores masterpiece Geetanjali to drive home the UPA governments message to the two houses of Parliament during her joint address on Thursday. The dreary desert sand of dead habit must be left behind, she summed up, after laying out the governments ambitious reform agenda for its second innings.

To drive home the message that the UPA sans the Left parties has the blueprint, the will and the ability to carry out vital economic reforms, Patil prefaced that by saying, My government believes that in the knowledge society in which we live today, creativity, innovation and enterprise hold the key to people and nations realising their potential.

Underlining the challenge of restoring the economic momentum that has been hit by the global slowdown as the governments top priority, Patil said growth is necessary to expand opportunities for employment. Mooting increased outlays in education, healthcare and infrastructure, Patil said, My Government will ensure that the growth process is not only accelerated, but also made socially and regionally more inclusive and equitable.

The President said the UPA would focus on internal security, sectoral growth, governance reform, infrastructure upgrade, fiscal prudence, energy security, social welfare, rural infrastructure, urban renewal, food security and skill development.

Patil also promised more vigorous monitoring and greater transparency in the functioning of development programmes. While a delivery monitoring unit will be set up in the Prime Ministers Office to monitor and publicly report the status of flagship programmes, ministers would have to publicly declare progress every quarter, just as corporates do. The government would also make public five reports on education, health, employment, the environment and infrastructure every year.

Stressing the need for public investment in infrastructure in the next five years, Patil said, Bottlenecks and delays in implementation of infrastructure projects because of policies and procedures will be systematically removed. A large number of PPP projects in different areas currently awaiting government approval would be cleared expeditiously. The regulatory and legal framework for PPPs would be made more investment friendly.

Promising aggressive judicial reforms, the President also announced that blueprints already in place for the reform of crucial sectors like coal, energy and taxation would be implemented. For instance, the Integrated Energy Policy would guide the governments efforts to add at least 13,000 mw of generating capacity each year.

Patil also indicated that the government would formulate a reform roadmap in areas where needed. This disinvestment is one such area. Our fellow citizens have every right to own part of the shares of public sector companies while the government retains majority shareholding and control. My government will develop a roadmap for listing and people-ownership of public sector undertakings while ensuring that government equity does not fall below 51%, Patil assured. The President also promised that the government would intensify the pace of oil and gas exploration and will aggressively pursue Indias oil diplomacy as well as expand nuclear energy generation. The international civil nuclear agreements will be operationalised with various countries even as domestic sources of uranium are exploited and work continues on the indigenously designed fast breeder and thorium reactor, Patil said. The government would also rework subsidy-based programmes to improve their efficacy by replacing the omnibus below poverty line list with targeted identification cards on the lines of the job card provided under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Patil said.