FM for more reforms, lists ten steps to boost faltering growth
New Delhi: Facing all round attack over the bad state of the economy, Government Tuesday said unleashing of more reforms was the way to deal with the situation and pressed for ending the "impasse" in coal and iron ore sectors to push growth.
Finance Minister P Chidambaram listed ten steps including promoting of manufacturing sector and exports to boost faltering growth, which needs to be raised to its potential rate of 8 percent.
He was replying to a debate on the economic situation in the Lok Sabha during which Opposition said the government's "reckless policies" had led to despondency and uncertainty in the country and that the exit of UPA from power was the only way to remedy the situation.
Defending the government's actions to address economic woes, Chidambaram said, "What we need now is not less reforms but more reforms; not more restrictions but less restrictions; not a close economy but a more open economy."
Referring to the steps being taken to restrict fiscal deficit to 4.8 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the Minister said he had drawn red line and that will not be crossed.
"We will go through some pain, by the end of the day, I am sure we will be able to emerge stronger", he said, adding all efforts would be made to bring down the Current Account Deficit (CAD) to USD 70 billion from USD 88.2 billion during the 2012-13.
On specific question of India issuing sovereign bonds to raise overseas funds, Chidambaram said, "All options are on table...Government will exercise its judgement at appropriate time. We must add to our reserves".
Referring to the 10 steps which included promoting exports, reviving investments, containing fiscal and current account deficits, raising capex of PSUs, recapitalising PSU banks, Chidambaram said, "If we are patient, firm and clear headed and once we take these steps, the economy will begin to turn and we will be able to build a strong economy."
Elaborating the steps, the Minister said the capital expenditure programme of PSUs is under evaluation. "We will monitor it very closely and see the capex programme is completed as envisaged".
In the budget Rs 14,000 crore recapitalisation for the PSU banks had been proposed, he said, adding "I hope we can invest more."
On problems being faced by power and other infrastructure sector, Chidambaram said, "We have to find a way to resolve the impasse in the coal sector, iron ore sector, environmental clearances, land acquisition which has come under judicial intervention. We have to resolve the impasse."
The impasse, Chidambaram said, "will affect any government in future. We will have to find a way in which we are respectful to Supreme Court, we must recognise the authority of Supreme Court, but also assert the authority of Parliament and executive government".
Because of the impasse, he said, India has to import coal despite having enough reserves for 200 years and also had to curtail import of iron ore. Similarly, he added, no manufacturing unit could come up unless the industry is able to acquire land.
Admitting that polity in the country is divided on economic policies, the Minister said there was a need to agree on some "common policies and common programmes" to boost growth.
Recalling his come back to the Finance Ministry, Chidambaram said, "When I took over on August one, I knew I was returning to a very difficult pitch."
He said some stability was restored in the economy until an "unexpected development" on May 22, 2013 -- when a statement by the US Federal Reserve chief of a possible bond tapering -- sent the emerging markets, including that of India, into a tizzy.
"The US acts in its self interest, it has impact on the world...We have to act in our self interest", he said, adding efforts were being made to contain CAD.
The Minister said that in the last six months the Cabinet Committee on Investments (CCI) has cleared 173 projects worth over Rs 1.93 lakh crore. It has cleared 18 more projects worth over Rs 83,000 crore yesterday.
He also said the government will help farmers to reap benefits of good monsoon and in this regard the interest subvention scheme was extended to loans from private sector banks as well.
Earlier in the day, taking a dig at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram, opposition members said they have been assuring the country that all is well and prices will be controlled but the reality is otherwise.
Participating in a debate on the economic situation in the country, BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said, "The government has lost control over the economy. So it is better that it goes."
Suggesting that the government was deliberately "playing with" the economy" since the last five years, he said, "the result is that whole nation is suffering."
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