The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Reforms wait for meeting of minds

Calcutta, Nov. 8: Economic planning and legislation have little relevance without a strong political will for implementation, said a member of the Planning Commission and a Union minister, speaking to entrepreneurs in the city today.

Addressing the national executive committee meeting of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci), N. K. Singh, member of the Planning Commission, said the chambers should play a proactive role in forming consensus among political parties on key economic issues.

Later in the day, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Union minister of state for commerce and industry, said at the Indian Chamber of Commerce, the lack of political consensus had pushed back economic reform in the country. “But reforms must continue, and it’s the turn of the industry now to help the government implement its plans,” Rudy said.

“Rather than organising seminars and meetings, the chambers should focus on forming consensus among political leaders on different legislation which are delayed by 6-8 months on an average. The chambers should act as catalysts to speed up the economic reforms. As we get closer to the elections it will become increasingly difficult to pass the pending Bills in Parliament,” Singh said.

He added the 8 per cent growth in gross domestic product (GDP) envisaged by the Tenth Plan, was achievable if the pending Bills were passed.

On the controversial issue of disinvestment, Singh said privatisation had always been a contentious issue, adding that it should be carried out after reaching a consensus. He also said that privatisation could not be equated with economic reforms.

Supporting the move to privatise public sector companies, Rudy said, divestment should not be seen as selling the family silver.

“You’ll get value for only those companies that are profitable. And post-divestment, companies like Modern Foods, Balco and Hindustan Zinc have grown in leaps and bounds.

“But due to the lack of political consensus on the issue, the government’s divestment plans have taken a beating. It’s the same for our dated labour laws. We have not been able to push through the intended reforms despite appreciating the problems,” Rudy said.

Singh said if the country failed to meet the GDP growth target during the Tenth Plan period, then every 1 per cent fall would result in unemployment of 25 million people.

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