Saturday, Nov 16, 2002
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By Our Special Correspondent
CHENNAI, NOV. 15. The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry will, in the coming year, initiate "focussed studies'' on the farm sector, which holds the key to economic growth and employment, according to the incoming President of FICCI, A. C. Muthiah.
The emphasis of FICCI would be on irrigation and distribution of farm produce. At present, because of the existence of many non-value-adding layers between the farmer's field and the consumer, the cost of farm produce for the consumer were high while the farmer himself was not deriving remunerative returns. The studies would deal with the creation of facilities for preserving farm produce and manufacturing value-added products, Mr. Muthiah said here today.
The incumbent Senior Vice-President of FICCI, who is scheduled to take over as President of the federation on December 13 at its annual meeting to be addressed by the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, told a press conference today that another part of "FICCI's vision'' for the coming year would be "regeneration'' of the manufacturing sector, which was, like agriculture, a "dependable employment generator.'' The fate of this sector was "tied to the success of reforms in the power sector, the financial sector and labour and business laws.'' Though interest rates had come down, banks and financial institutions were not prepared to advance funds for projects, including modernisation, because of fear of vigilance.
Also, there were 3,000 Central laws and 30,000 State laws which were never used, "and when they are used, they pose a hurdle to the smooth conduct of business.'' "Simplification of laws is a priority. I shall endeavour to see that the Inspector Raj comes to an end over time,'' Mr Muthiah said.
Another area of focus of the federation would be the development of transport infrastructure, both surface and air. "We need 26 international airports, six of which have been targeted. It is my mission to see the other 20 on the table and involve private sector synergies to bring this to fruition. I shall work with the Government to bring about a ports and waterways revolution,'' he declared.
Regarding the tax system and structure, he said FICCI studies had indicated that almost 35 per cent of the revenue generated by business was claimed by governments as indirect taxes, in spite of the progressive reforms introduced so far. The tax system should be simplified and made business-friendly if Indian industry was to become globally competitive.
FICCI would take forward its "look east'' policy, which had recently figured in discussions that the Prime Minister had with leaders of ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) on a common market, Mr. Muthiah said.
He said that in the last five years, FICCI "has grown by leaps and bounds,'' trebling its human capital and quadrupling its budget. It had many specialists and advisers in various sectors.
It had at present joint business councils (JBCs) with 69 countries, and offices in eight key countries, including the U.S. The China office of FICCI had become the nodal point for many businessmen. The federation had also opened regional offices in Chennai and Mumbai, he pointed out.
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