Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya has said the closure of 18-20 sick public sector units (PSUs) have gone “very well”, even as he made a case for expediting privatisation of loss making state-owned companies. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had asked government think-tank Niti Aayog to look into viability of sick state-run companies. “Closure of 18-20 sick PSUs have gone very well actually. And 17 loss-making PSUs are cleared for privatisation by the cabinet. Unfortunately, progress on those have been slow. “But it is happening in many cases, transaction advisers have been appointed. So even (in the case of) PSUs that were identified for strategic disinvestment, (progress) is happening, only thing is that it is slower,” Panagariya told PTI. The government has budgeted to raise Rs 72,500 crore through stake sale in PSUs in the current fiscal. This includes Rs 46,500 crore from minority stake sale, Rs 15,000 crore from strategic disinvestment and Rs 11,000 crore from listing of PSU insurance companies. Answering questions on labour reform, Panagariya said he thinks the government does want to do labour reforms. “The labour ministry has been working on four different labour codes (Wages, Industrial Relations, Social Security & Welfare and Safety and Working Conditions) which will replace the 40 plus laws that currently exists at the central level.”
When asked about his meeting with leaders of Bharatiya Majdoor Sangh(BMS), Panagariya said after “their criticism they (BMS leaders) had come here and we had one hour long chat”. “We may not agree on everything but you know, ultimately I see what is in the national interest,” he said. Panagariya was often outspoken on issues including labour reforms, privatisation of Air India and sick PSUs, for which RSS-affiliate Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) had accused Niti Aayog of furthering corporate lobby’s agenda in the country.
Talking about the economic growth, Niti Aayog Vice Chairman said, “We should grow this year (2017-18) at about 7.5 per cent. In the fourth quarter of this fiscal, we might touch 8 per cent growth.” Asked about his views on debate about shifting fiscal to January-December from April-March, Panagariya said there is a “need to check what kind of costs we pay for it”.
“Aligning fiscal to calendar year will also align our growth data to calender year. The other argument is January- December probably aligns better with the crop year of the farmers and vast majority of India depends on agriculture,” he added.