FM discounts fears of House panel on WTO fallout

New Delhi, January 24: | Updated: Jan 25 2002, 05:30am hrs
Allaying the apprehensions of the members of the Parliamentary consultative committee about the adverse impact of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) stipulations on the domestic industry and agriculture, finance minister Yashwant Sinha said there was no surge in imports after removal of the quantitative restrictions last year.

Mr Sinha said this while addressing the consultative committee meeting attached to his ministry here on Thursday. He was responding to the concerns expressed by several members about the WTO and its implications for the industry and agriculture.

During the meeting, which was a continuation of the last meeting to seek suggestions on the forthcoming Budget, members suggested that the government better focus on the agriculture and rural sector. As the agriculture sector is expected to register good growth during the current fiscal, the members urged Mr Sinha to make adequate provisions in the Budget to give a boost to the food processing sector.

Regretting that inadequate food storage capacity is leading to loss of corps, the members said efforts should be made to set up a chain of cold storage and other facilities to prevent the loss.

Some members also underlined the need for increasing investment in the farm sector which was essential for improving the sector on a sustained basis.

Members like ND Tewari and RP Goenka expressed thier concern over the slowdown and suggested action to reverse this. The members also urged the minister to increase public investment on infrastructure projects to effect a positive impact on the industry.

Some of the members sought protection for the SSIs, and argued that growth of this sector was necessary to generate employment, as this sector also played an important role in exports.

The members also urged Mr Sinha to simplify and streamline taxation and increase the limit for personal income tax to provide relief to the middle class.

The members who attended the meeting included Manmohan Singh, Bangaru Laxman, Nitish Sengupta, BB Ramaiah, VK Khandelwal, Trilochan Kanungo, S Kaushik and Mahendra Prasad.