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|November 20, 1999||
PM assures speedier economic, financial, administrative, legal reforms; Sinha to head panel on telecom
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today announced that a group will be constituted under the chairmanship of Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha to go into the problems which persist in the telecom sector.
Making the announcement at the 72nd annual session of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry or FICCI in New Delhi, Vajpayee said the issues include strengthening the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India through suitable legislative amendment.
The other questions which the group will look into are: replacement of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1985 with a comprehensive law that fully reflects the revolutionary convergence of telecom, computers, television and electronics, and a clear road map for corporatisation of the Department of Telecommunication.
There are also problems to be resolved in the implementation of the Internet Service Provider policy for achieving rapid spread of the Internet in India, especially through liberalisation of the gateway policy, he said.
''We will accelerate and expand the process of economic reforms in the next phase of administrative and legal reforms. Financial sector reforms, with the necessary supportive changes, will be an important element of this process,'' he added.
On the ambitious national highway project involving the east-west and north-south corridors, Vajpayee said although some work has already begun on the project, what is needed is a clear programme, with specific timelag targets to accelerate the pace of its implementation.
The reconstituted group on infrastructure will address this issue. The project, along with the government's renewed thrust on housing construction and agri processing, will create large-scale employment.
Vajpayee said the condition of the finances of states is causing concern to the government whose priority will be to bring fiscal discipline, both at the Centre and in states.
Vajpayee said the government will not be able to build adequate support for reforms unless the government and business demonstrate that this can benefit the poorest and the most deprived.
''The converse is also true. The more we can show that reforms benefit everybody and that they can contribute to the nation's healthy development, the more mass support can be generated for their speedier implementation.''
Vajpayee said bridging the gap between people's expectations and government's performance does not entail only the governmental machinery to realise its duty. It also demands that business and industry fulfil their duty. Specifially: Indian business establishments should quickly restructure themselves to bring greater efficiencies, protect the interests of their consumers, and improve the quality of their products to compete aggressively in the global market.
They should contribute fully in strengthening the social infrastructure for their employees and for the community in which they operate, through the spread of education, healthcare, housing, and sanitation. They should deal with small and medium entrepreneurs in a fair manner, assisting them in their growth needs, since these have a far greater potential to create employment.
They should fulfil their obligations to banks and financial institutions by timely repayment of loans.
They should respond generously to mitigate the sufferings of the ordinary people in times of natural calamities. ''I say this because, although Indian business has contributed to the national effort to help cyclone-ravaged Orissa, I believe that it can do much more," he said. "Taking the one billion people of India together with us, let the government and Indian business travel together on the road of reforms to the next century and millennium on the road to a strong, prosperous, and caring India.''
Sudhir Jalan, the outgoing president of FICCI, placed before the prime minister a ten-point wish list of the business community.
He desired that Parliament rush through the pending bills relating to insurance, intellectual property rights, foreign exchange management, money laudering and the Companies Act amendment. He sought national consensus across the political spectrum on the vital issues.
The business community favoured imposition of a statutory ceiling on government borrowings, moratorium on new subsidies, setting up of the pending Expenditure and Management Reforms Commission, a switchover to value added tax or VAT and an immediate completion of the restructuring of Central Excise.
Jalan desired that the government lower the rate of interest on government borrowings, the deposit rates and provident fund rates.
The FICCI president said destributive trade still remains untouched by the reform process. He urged Vajpayee to recast the entire Essential Commodities Act to facilitiate an all-win outcome for the consumers as well as traders.
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