| Ficci president R. S. Lodha (right) welcomes Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee at the chamber’s AGM as president-elect A. C. Muthiah looks on in New Delhi on Friday. (AFP)
New Delhi, Dec. 13: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said he is worried over the slow pace of reforms—especially in the power and labour sectors—and the persisting problems with fiscal consolidation at the Centre and the states.
“The slow implementation of power sector reforms and slow progress in labour reforms worries me. The pace of our infrastructure investments is also a cause for concern. We need to move rapidly in these areas,” Vajpayee said at the inauguration of Ficci’s 75th annual general meeting here today.
“I am deeply concerned that systems, procedures, rules and regulations in the government have still not been sufficiently reformed to serve the needs of rapid growth,” he said.
Vajpayee said the GDP growth rate—hovering at a little over 5 per cent—could be winched up by at least a couple of percentage points “by carrying out necessary governance reforms at various levels”.
Addressing a problem that industrialists and small entrepreneurs have come to regard as a natural hazard of doing business in India, Vajpayee said, “We may have done away with the licence permit-quota raj, but the inspector raj still survives. Many entrepreneurs, especially in the small and medium scale sectors, are routinely harassed and humiliated under this inspector raj. This must end.”
Vajpayee said corruption should not vitiate the business and political environment and eventually damage the interface between business and the government. “There must be criticism too where criticism is due. Otherwise, how will accountability be fixed' Yet, such criticism should be expressed in a constructive spirit,” he added.
“Let us talk about good things happening in the economy. Negative news only spreads cynicism and pessimism which are malignant viruses that weaken our national energy, dissipate our resolve and undermine our sense of purpose,” the PM said in an attempt to instil optimism and energy.
He said a committee had been set up under V. Govindrajan to analyse the reasons for time and cost overruns in public sector projects and the regulatory impediments to investments by private and public sectors at the central, state and local government levels.
“The committee has made wide-ranging recommendations for re-engineering the project cycle for public investments, both for physical and social sector developments, to ensure greater professionalisation of the identification, preparation, approval and post evaluation stages of the cycle,” Vajpayee said. The committee’s recommendations—that are being implemented—will have an effect on the execution of physical and social infrastructure projects. It also looks at transforming the present character of the business-government interface.