New Delhi: Committing to carry forward the economic reforms programme in the remaining term of UPA-II, Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday said the government will take more executive actions in the next two to four months and sought cooperation of the main opposition party to push through important bills in Parliament.
Ruling out early elections, the Minister said the government would last for 13 months more and would continue to take small but significant steps to ensure that the country achieves its potential growth rate of 8 percent.
"There is much more to be done. The remaining bills have to be passed. There are many more executive actions that have to be taken... Some of these are executive actions which we will take in the next 2-4 months.
"We will continue to take small significant steps. We will also take forward some big ideas. India's economy will continue to reform," Chidambaram said while addressing a conference organised by UK-based magazine The Economist.
The Minister sought cooperation of the Opposition party to ensure passage of the land, insurance and Goods and Services Tax (GST) bills in Parliament, saying the economic issues should be dealt in a bipartisan manner.
"We have listed the things we intend to do. We want the Land Bill passed; Insurance Bill passed with FDI at 49 per cent. I sincerely seek cooperation of principal opposition party and other political parties.
"We want the regulator for coal sector, road sector in place; we want rail tariff authority in place to fix tariff in railway sector," the Minister said.
Chidambaram also referred to the reforms initiatives taken by the government in the recent past.
He said the government had been able to take tough decisions with regard to opening of the multi-brand retail, deregulation of petroleum prices and freeing of the sugar sector partially.
The Minister further said it is important to ensure that both foreign and domestic investors continue to repose faith in the Indian economy, which he said is expected to grow by 6.1-6.7 percent during the current financial year, up from 5 percent in 2012-13.
Chidambaram said there is need to take a relook at the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) caps which were fixed long ago.
"We need to open our economy more. We have to give more space for FDI," he said, adding the FDI caps could be removed if found no longer useful.
Two separate committees 'under RBI and the Finance Ministry' are looking into various aspects of the foreign investment, including removal or raising of the FDI caps.
Promoting FDI was also essential to deal with the problem of widening Current Account Deficit (CAD), he said, adding it is likely to be below 5 per cent during the financial year 2012-13.
"CAD is indeed high... (it) is more worrying that fiscal deficit. In 2012-13, CAD is expected to be USD 90-94 billion. The satisfying aspect of this is that we have financed it completely without drawing down our reserves. There have been copious inflows," he added.
The Minister hoped that CAD would be close to 5 percent during 2012-13 and "going forward, we will bring it down... The way to do that is to boost exports...
"If we can conserve oil consumption by 10 percent, we can save USD 17 billion. And if we can control our passion for gold, we can save many more billion dollars. It's a difficult act but I am confident that with the steps we are taking to encourage inward inflows, we will be able to bring it down," the Minister said.
Chidambaram said the recent initiatives take by the Cabinet Committee on Investment (CCI) would spur investment activity which is essential for promoting growth and job creation.
"In the previous three meetings, the CCI had cleared projects in sectors like oil and gas, road and power (envisaging) investments worth USD 14 billion...As we remove investment bottlenecks, you will find growth picking up. Growth in 2013-14 will be between 6.1-6.7 percent," the Minister said.
He expressed confidence that the growth rate would move up to 7 percent in 2015-16, without fuelling inflationary expectations.
"I am happy to move up one rung at a time. In 2015-16, we will be getting over 7 percent growth without fuelling inflation. Confidence in Indian economy is rising," Chidambaram said.
Replying to questions on roll out of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the Minister said there are 70 percent chances of the getting the bills approved by Parliament in the remaining term of the UPA-II government.
"We reached a stage where the Empowered Committee (of State FMs) has authorised us to draft a constitution amendment Bill and a normal Bill for introducing GST. Work is in progress. The two bills will be ready. We will take it back to the Empowered Committee. Once the Committee endorses the two Bills, we will move them in Parliament," he said.
Referring to the issues concerning inflation, Chidambaram said the declining oil prices in the international market has helped in improving the overall price situation and hoped the downward trend would continue in the coming months.
This declining trend, Chidambaram added, was noticed in the case of core inflation, Wholesale Price inflation and the retail inflation.
The Minister also talked about fiscal consolidation and said he has already drawn red lines and would not allow the fiscal deficit to exceed 4.8 per cent of the GDP in the current financial year.
Concerted efforts helped the government in restricting the fiscal deficit to 5.2 percent of the GDP in 2012-13 against the revised projection of 5.3 percent.
First Published: Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 10:50