|NOW, ITS UP TO YOU MR FM! Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee seems to tell finance minister Jaswant Singh (R) after the approval of Tenth Plan document in New Delhi on Saturday. Deputy chairman of Planning Commission KC Pant (L) looks on|
Mr Vajpayee utilised the opportunity of the full plan panel meeting to reiterate his pro-liberalisation views. On October 2, he had taken the opponents of economic reforms head-on. In his remarks on Saturday, too, he categorically ruled out any rollback of liberalisation and privatisation. The government will actively pursue disinvestment in public sector undertakings, he asserted.
The Prime Minister listed, among other things, the primary aim of governance-related reforms as: greater encouragement to private entrepreneurship, with the government strengthening its role in the formulation and implementation of policies, legislation, regulation and facilitation, and exiting from direct participation in production and distribution.
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However, the Prime Minister was unequivocal on the issue: We need greater inflow of FDI to supplement our domestic resources, in areas where it would stregnthen our economy and enhance our competitiveness... But let there be no worry in any quarter that we would follow such an FDI policy as would weaken Indian industry or hurt our national interests. This will never happen.
Mr Vajpayee said that if the country wants to move towards our cherished dream of building an India free of poverty, illiterary and homelessness, many difficult decisions have to be taken. Here, he announced a six-point agenda to speed up reforms. These include tax reforms which need to be accelerated. He emphasised on an integrated Central and state value added taxation system.
Fiscal prudence will have to be pursued vigorously both by the Centre and state governments, he said.
We have to squeeze maximum efficiency and productivity from every rupee of investment already made, Mr Vajpayee said. Specifically, we must utilise excess capacity effectively, upgrade existing capital assets, raise the knowledge and skill lever of our workforce in all sectors; reduce public sector dissavings, and remove all non-financial barriers to speedier development.
He underlined to need to effect labour reforms, remove legal and other restrictions in the evolution of a national market, particularly for agriculture.
Another area of emphasis was the publi-private partnerships in the widest possible range of activities.
Further, removal of the bottlenecks in our energy, transport and water infrasture is a task that cannot be delayed any longer, the Prime Minister said. I am deeply worried by the very slow pace of power sector reforms. One of the principal reasons why our current growth rate is stagnating at around 5.5 per cent is due to severe infrastructural constraints, which can only be eased by acceleration reforms.