July 11, 2002, Chandigarh, India
PM for consensus on labour reforms
New Delhi, July 10
“The Cabinet has decided to vigorously pursue labour reforms. Now the report of the Second National Labour Commission has also been received. I appeal to all major political parties for a consensus on labour reforms, so that we can soon give effect to the consensus through appropriate legislation. Above all, these long-delayed labour reforms will create more employment opportunities, thus fulfilling our shared objective of achieving growth with jobs, “ Mr Vajpayee said in his opening remarks at the meeting of the Council on Trade and Industry here.
In an oblique reference to the recent Xerox accounting scandal, the Prime Minister cautioned that the government could not allow “people’s faith in economic liberalisation to be shaken by those who do business with an ethical deficit”.
“Businesses, too, must reform themselves. The principle of good corporate governance is the touchstone of your commitment to reforms. Recent reports of accounting scandals elsewhere in the world are beginning to worry a lot of people about the bombshells hidden in the boom-time economy”, he said.
Stating that the complexion of the highway network in India was rapidly changing with the implementation of the National Highway Development Project, he mooted a similar big initiative for the modernisation of the Indian Railways.
He said the process of disinvestment had been transparent and the government would further accelerate disinvestment of PSUs, except those in strategic sectors.
“We will relinquish government involvement in production, and raise resources for the development of our social sector”, Mr Vajpayee said.
The Prime Minister said the new Finance Minister, Mr Jaswant Singh, had inherited an economy which was in a good shape and “which will, believe me, only get better in the months to come.”
He said the agriculture sectorgrew by 5.7 per cent. The GDP grew by 5.4 per cent up from 4 per cent in the previous year. This year, it was expected to grow beyond 6 per cent. “There has been an unprecedented price stability. Inflation is around 2 per cent. Forex reserves have grown to $ 58 billion, which provide more than 13 months of import cover - the highest for any country, except China”, he said.
Mr Vajpayee said reforms in fertiliser pricing, dismantling of the administered pricing mechanism for petroleum products, reduction in the scope of the Essential Commodities Act, reduction of price control on pharmaceuticals and withdrawal of the Milk and Milk Products Order were examples of the reforms achieved by this government.
Urging political parties to help conclude the government’s legislative agenda, he said 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 Interest were some examples of legislation accomplished or under way.
The government was conscious of the need to attract larger volumes of foreign direct investment (FDI). “I hope that the Expert Committee in the Planning Commission would submit its recommendations soon. It is necessary to have an appropriate legal and institutional framework for increasing the flow of FDI”, he said.
Leading industrialises, including Kumaramangalam Birla, Ratan Tata, Nusli Wadia, Sashi Ruia, Rajiv Chandrashekar and presidents of the apex chambers FICCI, CII and Assocham, attended the meeting to discuss the Electricity and Petroleum Regulatory Board Bills.
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