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Manmohan swears by reforms

Source: PTI
May 20, 2004 13:00 IST
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Unveiling the economic agenda of the new Congress-led coalition government, Prime Minister-designate Manmohan Singh on Thursday said that reforms would be continued with a human face and the government was committed to building strong private and public sectors while pursuing selective divestment.

"Development will be key priority, the aim of reforms would be to remove poverty, increase employment through relief to decentralised sectors," Singh said asserting "privatization was not part of our ideology and public sector units like ONGC and GAIL will not be privatised."

"PSUs like GAIL and ONGC will remain in the public sector. There is no intention to privatise them. Similarly, there are nationalised banks which will remain in public sector. These will not be privatised," he said.

"If they can't compete at equal footing with the private sector or become a drag on the exchequer, then by all means they will be allowed to raise resources from market through divestment," he said promising that the interest of the workers would be protected.

"We will not do anything which will throw large pool of workers jobless," he said emphasising that "while remaining as public enterprises, if they (PSUs) want to raise resources through divestment or through sale of equity, they are most welcome."

Wherever public sector enterprises want to compete with private sector in domestic and foreign, there is no reason why they should not be allowed to go forward, he said.

Seventy-one-year-old Singh, the architect of India's economic reforms, said details of the government's economic agenda would be spelt out in the Common Minimum Programme which would be finalised in consultation with the allies in a day or two.

Dwelling at length on the need to have reforms with a human face, Singh said the government would endeavour to realise late Rajiv Gandhi's dream "to make 21st century asĀ  India's century."

He said the main stress of reforms would be to provide education, health for all, improve environment, housing for millions of slum dwellers and increase agriculture production.

"This will be our new agenda," he said and quoted the famous writer Victor Hugo that "no power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come."

But there were difficulties and the government was committed to overcome them. India was emerging as a major economic power and the country could only move forward, he said.

Singh said the emergence of India as a major global economic power was one such idea whose time had come. "Our government worked sincerely to realise that dream when we were in power from 1991-1996."

"We achieved substantial success but it would be wrong on my part to say that the task is complete, the task is far from being complete," he said, adding that this Congress-led coalition government has pledged itself to fight against poverty and ignorance.

Asked if the Left parties would be an impediment to the reform process, Singh said: "Life is never free from contradictions and the coalition government will try to promote strong and stable government and create relations with allies to fight against poverty, ignorance and disease."

"They (Left parties) are also great patriots," Singh said, adding that he did not foresee any difficulties in pursuing economic policies and moving forward on the basis of the common minimum programme.

The CMP would be growth-oriented and progressive and create an environment that was investment-friendly. "There should not be any misgivings in this regard."

Seeking the support of Non-Resident Indians for economic development, Singh said: "I invite them to show much more interest in the development of the country and the government will create an environment where our industrialists, both NRIs and domestic, could increase investments and create more wealth in the country."

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