‘We are ready to clear policy doubts’
Tainted firms face selloff bar
Back to basics in pro-people tilt
Key VSNL official joins Himachal Futuristic

New Delhi, May 13: 
Under fire from Swadeshi hawks for pushing too hard with reforms and being too soft on multinationals, finance minister Yashwant Sinha says he is ready to remove misgivings.

“If our friends have any doubts about our policy, we are ready to discuss it,” he said.

The remarks come after BMS chief and Swadeshi Jagran Manch ideologue Duttopant Thengadi tongue-lashed him as a ‘criminal.’

Reacting to comments that he had allowed things to spin out of control, he said, “I am in control of the economy, except divine will and the vagaries of weather.”

Sinha scoffed at fears that opening up the economy to foreign capital or imports, including the foreign direct investment limits announced last week, would give multinationals control of the economy. “FDI is just a trickle. The fear of MNCs is irrational. It is crazy to imagine that we will be reduced to traders while outsiders will take over the industry.”

Instead, the minister saw China as a bigger threat. “When we talked of MNCs a few years back, we thought about US and European companies, not China.” He said the government will prevent the flow of imports from turning into a deluge. “Have we been swamped by imported wheat, rice or any product produced locally?”

Reacting to calls from certain quarters that the government quit the World Trade Organisation, Sinha said there were more benefits in staying with it than in walking out. “To me, Swadeshi means a strong and self-reliant India, not a state of autarky where we trade with no one.”

Sinha, facing flak for not doing enough to stem the post-budget stock slump, promised changes in laws governing the Securities and Exchange Board of India and bourses, but insisted the House panel probing it will be consulted.


New Delhi, May 13: 
The government is likely to debar scam-tainted companies like Sterlite Industries, Videocon and BPL, from bidding for any future disinvestment in public sector units.

The decision has been taken by a group of ministers, including Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, home minister L. K. Advani, finance minister Yashwant Sinha and disinvestment minister Arun Shourie, which has held several rounds of meetings on the issue.

Sources said an in-principle decision on the issue has already been taken, which will later be formally placed at a Cabinet meeting.

When asked, Sinha refused to comment on the outcome of the meetings, but confirmed “the government is considering the issue (of debarring scam tainted companies) for future disinvestments.”

However, the government has yet to decide whether to disallow the Hinduja group, allegedly involved in the Bofors pay-off scam, to bid for any of the PSUs.

“A decision over the Hindujas is holding up the issue. If they are barred, the government will be accused of being politically motivated; If they are allowed to bid, the government will be accused of double standards,” sources said.

Fresh from the uproar over Balco, the government is keen to avoid any allegations of a scam, which may arise if Videocon, BPL and Sterlite, charged with ramping up their scrips in 1998, are allowed to bid for the PSUs.

A parallel move is also on to eliminate foreign merchant bankers—being investigated by Sebi for their alleged involvement in share price rigging—from advising the government on the disinvestment process. Significantly, Credit Suisse First Boston, an advisor in VSNL ‘s divestment, is under Sebi’s scanner.    

New Delhi, May 13: 
Stung by the electoral reverses staring it in the face and mounting criticism of its reforms process, it’s back to the basics for the BJP government, at least where the economy is concerned. In other words, it will now be roads, electricity, water, health and education, issues closer to the common man’s heart.

Tacitly admitting the government’s changed priorities, finance minister Yashwant Sinha said: “The common man is not bothered about fiscal deficit and FDI, he wants the basics like water, roads, electricity, health and education to be addressed; we will work on this.” Moreover, “development is not just growth, it is growth plus concern for the common man,” he added.

The finance minister prescribed patience for those who have been pushing for a faster pace of reforms. “Second generation reforms do not mean a reform a day. I have always cautioned patience.”

Sinha, who has been under severe attack from the Sangh Parivar and its associates for his economic policies, considered even by several hardliners within the Cabinet to be too right-wing, now promises quick implementation of projects, which the government hopes will help it get closer to the common man.

“You will see much action within the next few months on this front,” he promised.

New power projects, which, the Centre was keen till recently be taken up by the private sector, will now be a thrust area for the government. State-run power utilities like the National Thermal Power Corporation and National Hydro-electric Power Corporation have been ordered to start work on power projects as soon as possible. Sinha has even promised central funds for these projects.

The government plans to add at least 8,000 megawatts of power within the next two years.

“Since the reform programme started in the early 1990s, the government’s philosophy has been there would be no fresh investments from its side in industrial enterprise. PSUs who want to set up projects or expand operations, will have to fend for themselves by either raising internal resources or borrowing from the market,” he said.

“Contracts for the remaining 3,000 kms of the golden quadrangle of express highways will be awarded by June-July. Besides, we will be spending some Rs 2,500 crore on rural roads. This is a well thought-out package where we want to deliver the goods and we took our time in starting with this one because we wanted to be sure the money actually produces results,” Sinha said.

The finance minister added that another Rs 1,000 crore has been earmarked for state highways. “We will also extend liberal help to the states for irrigation projects,” he said.

The rash of public spending is also expected to pump up the economy, create new jobs and increase spending power.


New Delhi, May 13: 
Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd’s director for development, Vinoo Goyal, has left the organisation to join Himachal Futuristic Communications Ltd.

He was in-charge of the strategic planning group, responsible for VSNL’s foray into basic fixed telecom and internet services.

Sources in VSNL said, “Non-implementations of the recommendations made by SPG had led to growing resentment among the senior officials, particularly Goyal.”

He was critical of the management and had asked them to prepare for the upcoming competition, which did not get favourable response.

Two of his major projects — to foray into the cellular and basic fixed line services in Nepal and Africa — were shot down, added the sources.

In a bid to strengthen the strategic planning group, VSNL has decided to transfer majority of its officials belonging to this group from Delhi to Mumbai.

VSNL had set up SPG-I for basic fixed line telecom services and SPG-II for internet and other value added services.

One of his team members in SPG-I said: “He got a better offer so he left. At our last meeting he had pointed out that VSNL will not be able to retain telecom professionals. They have to understand that telecom market is fast changing and the sarkari attitude will not come to their rescue.”

Goyal was not available for comment.

Out of the total seven officials, senior general manager and deputy general manager one each from SPG-I and SPG-II have been asked to immediately join VSNL headquarters in Mumbai.


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