Thursday, Jul 11, 2002
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By Sushma Ramachandran
The Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, with the Union Finance Minister, Jaswant Singh, at the Advisory Council meeting on Trade and Industries in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photo: V.V. Krishnan
Addressing a meeting of the Trade and Advisory Council, he declared that the Cabinet had decided to "vigorously pursue'' labour reforms. With the report of the second National Labour Commission having been received, he urged political parties to arrive at a consensus so that appropriate legislation could be passed. "Above all, these long-delayed labour reforms will create more employment opportunities, thus fulfilling our shared objective of achieving growth with jobs''.
He sought support for passing a host of bills apart from the Electricity Bill 2002 and the Petroleum Regulatory Board Bill 2002 considered by the Council at today's meeting. These included the Convergence Bill for Telecom and IT, the Competition Bill, the Patents Bill, the amendments to the Civil Procedure Code, the ordinance for securitisation and reconstruction of financial assets and enforcement of security interests.
He told the Council, which includes corporate leaders like Ratan Tata, Kumaramangalam Birla, Sanjiv Goenka, Shashi Ruia and A.C. Muthaiah, that there had been a significant improvement in the economic situation over the past year. The GDP grew at 5.4 per cent last year and was expected to rise over 6 per cent this year. He stressed on the "unprecedented price stability'' with inflation at a low of two per cent. Forex reserves had risen to $58 billion, which provided over 13 months of import cover, the highest for any country except China.
Mr. Vajpayee expressed confidence that the economy would further prosper in the "able hands'' of the new Finance Minister, Jaswant Singh, and assured industry that the Government would respond to its concerns. Despite the situation on the borders, neither the pace of economic reforms nor implementation of key infrastructure projects had slowed in any way.
On the role of corporates, he said industry and the economy must rise to their full potential. It was not enough for the Government to carry out reforms. "Businesses too must reform themselves''. The principle of good corporate governance was the touchstone of industry's commitment to reforms.
Referring to the accounting scandals unfolding in other parts of the world in companies like Enron, Worldcom and Xerox, he said people were beginning to worry about the bombshells hidden in the boomtime economy. People's faith in economic liberalisation should not be shaken by those who did business with an "ethical deficit'', he said.
Outlining the Government's future agenda, he said the disinvestment of Public Sector Undertakings would be further accelerated barring strategic sectors as the returns had exceeded the most optimistic expectations and appreciably increased the value of PSU equities. Fears on security of employment after disinvestment had been shown to be without foundation, he said.
On the infrastructure sector, he said a big initiative would soon be launched to modernise the Railways just as the highway network was being rapidly changed.
At the outset, Mr. Vajpayee made a reference to the demise of Dhirubhai Ambani, an "outstanding entrepreneur'' who inspired many Indians to translate their dreams into reality.
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