New Delhi, Feb. 25: In the saddle for nine months, the Manmohan Singh government has shed its initial ambiguity about the course of economic reforms.
A self-assured United Progressive Alliance ' whose ascent to power on the aam-aadmi (common man) ticket last May was marked by bloodbath on the bourses ' today announced loudly the centrality of liberal reform policies in its approach to governance.
The pre-budget address of the President to a joint session of Parliament, drafted and finalised by the Singh cabinet, reconciled the perceived clash between the alliance's aam-aadmi approach and its commitment to market reforms.
A.P.J. Abdul Kalam's 75-minute speech came out with a strong iteration of the commitment to push forward the country's 14-year economic reform programme by accelerating public and private investment in the seven priority sectors of agriculture, education, employment, healthcare, infrastructure, urban renewal and water.
'My government will pursue policies that will sustain the recovery and accelerate growth, moving forward on the twin roads of efficiency and equity,' Kalam said.
The investment commission set up by the government would seek to step up investment activity and remove all policy and operational constraints, he said.
Taking credit for holding the price line despite a moderate monsoon and a steep rise in oil prices ' inflation fell from 8 per cent in August to 5 per cent now ' Kalam said this has helped raise domestic and foreign investment and protect the real income of the poor.
The success of liberal market reforms in the telecom sector, the President said, is a guide to taking a similar approach for modernising other key infrastructure areas like power, roads, railway, ports, inland waterways, civil aviation and housing.
Kalam also announced a 'New Deal to Rural India', the details of which will be spelt out by finance minister P. Chidambaram when he presents the government's second budget on Monday.
The new deal would reform and modernise agriculture and address the problem of rural unemployment, the President said. The poor who do not benefit in the short run from the rural reform agenda would be protected by the proposed national employment guarantee act, he said. 'My government wants India to shine, but it must shine for all!'
Kalam also brought the reform of government on the government agenda. A model code of good governance for public servants is in the offing, he said.
The President said the government would deal sternly with threats to peace and social harmony and promised a white paper on the status of minority communities.