M A I N   N E W S

FM promises easy land acquisition
More reforms on anvil, says Jaitley * Govt open to selling loss-making public sector cos
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 5
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today said the government will remove all bottlenecks in the land acquisition process to set up smart cities and is open to selling loss-making public sector undertakings (PSUs).

“Reforms are not about a few big bang ideas,” said Jaitley, kicking off the two-day India Economic Summit organised by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum in New Delhi.

Asserting that the country needed to doggedly pursue the reforms agenda despite challenges, Jaitley said the Union Government’s actions were aimed at eliminating discretion. He gave example of the coal ordinance that has resulted in rules being framed for allocation of mining licences, first to the state sector and then to actual users through e-auction. Commercial mining by private investors is also envisaged, Jaitley said while interacting with Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum. The Finance Minister said similar reforms were being planned for other minerals. On land acquisition laws, Jaitley said the government was looking at changing some ‘illogical provisions’. "There are some illogical provisions (in Land Acquisition Act) like land can’t be used or acquired under this law for private hospitals and schools... There are some factors in it, which certainly require a re-look," he said, adding that such provisions would make it difficult to build smart cities being proposed by the government.

The focus, he said, is to make the entire process smoother. On privatisation and greater access to foreign investors, he said the government was currently following the approach of divestment rather than outright privatisation. Jaitley said he was okay with loss-making public sector units being sold off.

Referring to the need for labour reforms, Jaitley said some aspects of the labour laws in India can certainly be improved and rationalised. "This is an area where we will have to have a much larger consideration... Some people will certainly have reservation on this issue. Will I be able to immediately get it passed in Parliament? I am not in a position to comment," he said. The government needs to convince people that a flexible policy will create more jobs, said the Finance Minister. He said it is far more challenging to implement reforms in a developing society, as public opinion cannot be confronted.

Jaitley also noted that India was off the global radar for 2-3 years and the retrospective taxation was "one bad idea" that damaged the economy.

The FM said the government's decision to further open defence and railways to foreign investment is evoking interest from investors.

"If the initial experiment succeeds, we can open up a lot more," the minister said. He expressed hope that the long-pending Insurance Amendment Bill, that seeks to raise FDI in the sector from existing 26% to 49%, will get Parliament nod in the upcoming winter session. (With agency inputs)

‘Policy stability a must’

* Jaitley said India needs to ensure that there is stability of policy, including in taxation, so that global investors can come in

* “We need to open the door wide open so that people can come in. We need to ensure that there is stability of policy, there is stability of taxation policy, and therefore we have to disagree with a lot of things that happened in the past," he said

* The FM said the country needs world class infrastructure and avenues should be provided to people for doing business and making profits





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