The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Face to face with globalisation, CPM winks

Calcutta, June 6: The CPM yesterday adopted a document that for the first time confronted ideological problems thrown up by globalisation and economic reforms in a systematic manner.

Four issues dominate the resolution the party's central committee endorsed over its three-day session here ' foreign investment, divestment of government shares from public sector units, multilateral assistance and funding by NGOs.

On all four subjects, the party's stand shows flexibility. For instance, the resolution expresses the CPM's willingness to accept foreign capital on condition that it brings in improved technology, creates jobs and expands the productive base of the economy.

It is a formulation even Manmohan Singh or P. Chidambaram ' not to speak of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, closer home ' will find difficult to disagree with.

While such a policy resolution will be of help to the Bengal chief minister in pursuing his effort to draw investment, foreign or otherwise, more important is the party committing itself to a set of parameters that should apply not to a single state but even at the national level.

The guidelines will also assist the Prime Minister, who often finds himself at odds with his Left allies on economic policy, in gauging the CPM's likely response to any initiative. 'It has been recognised that we can no longer take an escapist posture to the forces of globalisation. The formulation of clear-cut and well-laid-down policies is an indication of a pragmatic approach,' said a party member.

It is not as though the CPM did not have a framework to go by on any of the four issues, but its approach stemmed more from understanding than official formulation.

This caused confusion in the ranks and often subjected the party to allegations of double standard: what's good for Bengal is not good for India.

Public sector divestment is one such, where Manmohan Singh's government has been facing strong resistance from the CPM.

The resolution does not put the handcuffs on Bhattacharjee whose government has decided to close down loss-making state-owned undertakings. It allows closure where it has been proved that a company is beyond revival.

All these issues, part of the political organisational report, had come up for debate at the party congress in Delhi earlier this year. A decision on the party's stand on the issues was kept pending in the context of divergence of opinion between the so-called hardliners and the moderates.

The central committee found the answers in its Calcutta session where politburo member Sitaram Yechury placed the resolution.

Although the resolution signals an opening-up by the leadership, at almost every step the party's role has been emphasised in order to keep governments headed by the CPM in line. On foreign investment, for example, the resolution says the state committee will examine each proposal.

The party will also look at each case of aid from multilateral agencies, such as the British department for international development, which is assisting the Bengal government in public sector restructuring.

According to the resolution, multilateral assistance can be taken if it comes without strings. Here, Bhattacharjee could find himself hamstrung because multilateral aid is frequently tied to conditions.

It was decided that the party can associate with NGOs running without foreign funds, but even this is subject to endorsement by the relevant party committee.

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