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Basu & bourse on PM's plate
- New York exchange date for Singh

Sept. 16: Manmohan Singh will address the New York Stock Exchange next week, the first Indian Prime Minister to do so.

Before Singh steps into the towering symbol of capitalism, he will have to negotiate his way through tricky economic decisions back home and meetings with communist leaders key to the durability of his government.

The cabinet is meeting tomorrow to discuss the contentious issue of easing foreign investment restrictions in telecom and civil aviation.

On the same day, the CPM politburo will be meeting in the capital to discuss these issues and review the implementation of the common minimum programme.

The next day, CPM veteran Jyoti Basu, who has frowned on the Planning Commission's decision to involve World Bank consultants in an appraisal, will meet the Prime Minister. Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is also slated to call on Singh with a wish list either on Friday or Saturday.

The CPM will wait till Singh returns from New York next weekend to formally take up foreign investment and other disputed issues with him.

The pace for the cabinet meeting was set today when CPM leader Sitaram Yechury and Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, a trusted lieutenant of the Prime Minister, met over 'an ice-breaker lunch'.

Issues discussed at the lunch served in Yojana Bhavan included foreign investment and the World Bank consultants.

Yechury told reporters that the Left is sticking to its opposition to both but, choosing words with care, he added: 'We have no issue if their (World Bank specialists') advice is taken as independent consultants. But they cannot be part of an official decision-making body.'

The CPM leader also made it clear that though the Left remained opposed to an FDI hike in telecom, 'if the government wants to go ahead, they have to address our concerns on foreign direct investment'.

There was speculation that the cabinet would announce some measures to please the Left, but other than a note for tomorrow's meeting, which seeks to hike dearness allowance for central employees by 3 per cent, nothing of the sort is on the agenda.

The Prime Minister is leaving for New York on Sunday to attend the United Nations General Assembly. In New York, he is scheduled to have breakfast with President George W. Bush and meet Pervez Musharraf.

But a highlight of his week-long visit will be Wednesday's address to NYSE, on invitation. Officials said this would give him the opportunity to present India as a stable and attractive investment destination.

Earlier, there were reports that the Prime Minister might go to Harvard to deliver a lecture. But time constraints appear to have come in the way.

On his way to New York, Singh will stop in London where he will have breakfast with CEOs followed by a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair who is expected to host lunch for him.

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