M A I N   N E W S

Despite Left, govt may hike telecom FDI cap
R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 9
With some dissenting noises from the Left parties, the UPA government is expected to go ahead with the hike in the FDI in telecom sector without much hassle.

Indications are that the Cabinet note for increasing FDI cap from 49 per cent to 74 per cent in telecom sector is under preparation with Union Communication Ministry seeking comments from different ministries.

While Left parties would adopt a hard bargaining public posture, sources indicated that they would settle down if the government incorporates enough provision, whereby the national security of the country is not jeopardised and the state has enough control to monitor the activities of the telecom companies.

Sources said there were talks between the government and the Left parties, which would provide enough face saving formula for the Communists to claim victory, while the UPA government goes ahead with the hike in FDI cap, which would send a positive message to international investors.

The four Left parties today met to discuss the issues to be raised in the next meeting of the UPA-Left Coordination Committee to be held by the end of this month after the return of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh from foreign tour.

RSP leader Abani Roy, a member of the Committee, said: “The government has assured us active consideration of our concerns in FDI hike in telecom and insurance. We are still awaiting their response.”

The Left leaders identified at least 10 priority areas for the ruling combine and exhorted it to “start performing” in the right earnest on tackling the Manipur situation, Jammu and Kashmir and implementing Employment Guarantee Scheme and others.

CPI General Secretary A B Bardhan said “certain points” in the new Foreign Trade policy announced by the Commerce Ministry should be reconsidered as these would go against national interests. The review of the Electricity Act, 2003, should also be taken up, he said.

Mr Bardhan said: “We feel the priority items listed in the Common Minimum Programme, which affect 90 per cent of the persons especially those in the rural areas, must be addressed by the government”.

The issues include enacting of a National Employment Guarantee Act to provide employment to the rural poor by involving measures like food-for-work programmes.

Provision of drinking water and a comprehensive legislation on agricultural workers should also be given priority, the CPI leader said.

Reiterating their demand that there should be “no privatisation” of airports, the Left parties would also like to have a detailed discussion on the modernisation and restructuring of Mumbai and Delhi airports, he said.


PM for corrective steps
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 9
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today called for “corrective steps” to turn around the domestic economy in the backdrop of the “deterioration” in the mid-90s.

“The process of economic reforms that we had initiated in the early 90s have paid rich dividends in many dimensions, but it is also true that economic performance deteriorated in the second half of the ‘90s,” Dr Manmohan Singh said during the first meeting of the Full Planning Commission of the UPA government here.

The Prime Minister obliquely came out in defence of Planning Commission Deputy Chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia who come under attack for engaging experts from multi-lateral agencies such as the World Bank and IMF.

“The internal Planning Commission has started the process in earnest, including extensive consultations with the central ministries, state governments and outside experts,” he said, while referring to the mid-term appraisal on the Tenth Five Year Plan.

He said the deceleration in agricultural growth after the mid-90s was disturbing. The growth rate had gone down to 5.4 per cent in the 9th Plan from a high of 6.7 per cent during the previous plan period.

“It is incumbent on us to devise and implement a development strategy which introduces corrective steps needed to achieve sustained high rates of growth in the economy along with a significantly greater degree of inclusiveness and thereby, a lesser sense of alienation,” the Prime Minister said.

The Tenth Plan has established an ambitious target of 8.1per cent growth, against which the actual performance attained in the first two years -- at around 6 per cent -- has been less than satisfactory, the Prime Minister said.

“We will need to pay much greater attention to agriculture and rural development and to reduce regional imbalances in the process of development. Basic social services such as education and health will also require a sharper focus,” he said. Dr Manmohan Singh said the Planning Commission had been instructed to “evaluate the implications of the NCMP approach and to elaborate it into specific and feasible policies and initiatives which can be built into development plans and programmes”.

He noted that the government was confronted with time constraints as the Budget for 2004-05 had to be prepared and presented within 45 days of assuming office.

“There was no time to carry out the detailed exercises that are necessary to formulate Plan allocations in a manner, which is both non-disruptive as well as consistent with the broader policy orientations of our government. We had, therefore, decided to adopt the innovative measures of providing in the Budget a block allocation of Rs 10,000 crore to the Planning Commission to be reappropriated for specific projects and programmes that further the NCMP objectives, at the time of the first supplementary demand for grants”, he said.

The internal Planning Commission has undertaken a detailed assessment of the needs of the key sectors in consultation with the ministries concerned, after which it has prepared a set of funding proposals for utilisation of the bulk allocation, the Prime Minister said.

At the time of approving the Tenth Five Year Plan in December 2002, the National Development Council (NDC) identified four critical areas — governance reforms, investor friendly climate, removal of trade barriers and panchayati raj institutions — in which reforms were required.

“Unfortunately, there has been little progress since then. These are no doubt important areas of concern. However, we would need to reconstitute the four Empowered Sub-Committees and to amend some of the Terms of Reference in order to better reflect the NCMP objectives”, he said.

On the issue of transfer of Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS), Dr concerned Singh said in 1999, the NDC constituted a Committee under the Chairmanship of the then Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission to go into this issue in detail.

The draft report of this committee has been prepared and circulated for comments. Comments of the original members of the committee have been received, but it is now necessary to involve the new members before the report is finalised, he said.

“We would need to examine which of these recommendations is in consonance with our own broader policy orientations,” he said.Back


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