» Business » The promises are encouraging; now for action

The promises are encouraging; now for action

By Business Standard
June 03, 2009 10:56 IST
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The new ministers have been sharing their initial thoughts with the media, and making statements of intent. Most of these are to be welcomed, while a few have sounded the wrong note.

For instance, the minister for corporate affairs, Salman Khursheed, wants to interfere in Satyam's redundancy planning, though it is none of his business; and Jairam Ramesh has disclosed that his brief from the Prime Minister is to not be a stumbling block in the way of industrial projects - in which case, he should be in Udyog Bhavan, not Paryavaran Bhavan.

Some pronouncements are of course mere statements of intent. Freshly minted ministers usually do not miss the opportunity to play to an expectant gallery; as always, good intentions need to be translated into action. Still, there is an air of purposiveness about the new government which is heartening.

The finance minister has made his brief clear (growth, with fiscal consolidation) and then slipped into pre-Budget listening mode. Anand Sharma, in the ministry of industry and commerce, has been greeted with the dreadful news that exports collapsed in April, and has been candid enough to admit that repeating last year's export numbers (which were only 3.5 per cent more than in 2007-08) would be a challenge.

He has also declared that the new rules on foreign direct investment will not be reviewed till they are tested, which is fair enough; but he should be conscious of the fact that the rules would be better if simplified, and direct rather than indirect foreign investment encouraged.

Some of the ministers in charge of infrastructure sectors have been quick off the mark. Praful Patel wants to list Air-India (though whether the company is marketable with its present level of losses and debt is a question), and Andimuthu Raja wants to list Bharat Sanchar Nigam (which should have been done long ago, and would add thousands of crore to the country's stock market capitalisation figure).

Kamal Nath has credibly promised a quick roll-out of the stalled roads programme, but Mamata Banerjee has made only populist pronouncements so far, while the Prime Minister has signalled that a third of the power produced will be sold under the open access plan, which will be a hugely positive measure.

Mr Patel, meanwhile, has said that any new private airports will have to be greenfield projects - which does not slam doors shut because four of the five biggest airports are already in private hands.

P Chidambaram has evidently got going in the home ministry. Kapil Sibal can be expected to improve on the record in education. To his credit, he has underlined the point that the elite higher education institutions need to upgrade syllabi and take a fresh look at how well they are doing.

And Dayanidhi Maran has promised more jobs and investment in textiles, which have been an area of missed opportunity.

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