Sunday, Dec 22, 2002
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By Our Special Correspondent
A staunch proponent of hastening the pace of economic reforms, Mr. Naidu stated at the 50th meeting of the National Development Council in New Delhi on Saturday that "we cannot oppose reforms while in opposition and support it while in power.''
The Chief Minister used the platform to reiterate his view that a strong Centre needed strong States. Reforms at the national level could be expedited with greater decentralisation of finance and power to the States. The GDP growth rate of 8 per cent and other targets set by the Planning Commission for the 10th Plan could only be achieved if the reforms process was further accelerated jointly by the Centre and the States, he added.
Mr. Naidu said reforms were no longer a matter of choice but a matter of necessity. A special thrust must be given to wide- ranging reforms and a clear national agenda drawn for effecting speedy reforms with a focus on creating a Government that worked better and cost less, he added. Copies of Mr. Naidu's speech were released here.
Listing the elements of the reforms that both the Centre and State Governments had to jointly address, he said these should include financial, legal, labour and administrative reforms. Other elements were bringing the Government as close as possible to the governed, building a consensus in favour of disinvestment, downsizing bureaucracy in tune with recommendations of Pay Commissions and providing better citizen services by using information technology.
The Chief Minister was mildly critical of the Centre on a few counts. Seeking a consistency in the policy regime, he said the recommendations of the Kelkar Committee on Direct Taxes, which ran contrary to the Centre's commitment not to tax software exports till 2009, had raised apprehensions in investors' minds.
He pointed out that all the elastic sources of revenue were with the Centre and the States were unable to discharge their responsibilities with their meagre resources. He strongly felt that the collection and appropriation of service tax should be left to the States.
Making a strong pitch for transferring to States all the Centrally-sponsored schemes, particularly those in the State list, he said this would give States freedom to channelise the available resources towards State-specific priorities.
The Chief Minister also advocated that the Ganga-Cauvery link should be taken up in its entirety so that surplus water available could be utilised in scarcity areas. The example of public-private partnership in building the Golden Quadrilateral in the roads sector should be extended to the irrigation sector.
He appealed to the Prime Minister to appreciate the gravity of the drought situation in AP and provide immediate assistance.
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