Monday, June 30, 2014

Arun Shourie bats for immediate innovative reforms

KOLKATA: Pushing for immediate economic reforms to bail India out from its "precarious financial condition", former union ministerArun Shourie Sunday urged the states to use Article 254 to push for progressive legislations. 

Delivering a lecture on "Instigating Reforms" to mark the 121st birth centenary of celebrations of eminent scientist and applied statistician Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis (1893-1972) at the Indian Statistical Institute here, Shourie said innovative reforms were indispensable for the country, which is steadily getting into a debt-trap. 

"India is steadily getting debt-trapped... the situation is so precarious that our leading banks and public sector undertakings (PSUs) are failing to raise money from the market. Immediate and innovative reforms have become indispensable," said the former minister of disinvestment during the previous NDA government. 

Shourie put the onus on states to push for reforms by making legislation using Article 254 which deals with inconsistency between laws made by parliament and the state legislatures. 

"Everything cannot be done by Delhi. States need to come forward and resort to Article 254(2) of the constitution that allows the state legislation to prevail, provided the president gives his assent. If a few progressive states start, the rest will follow suit," he said. "By creating a holding company for the PSUs and the public banks, we can raise money from the market against the collective assets. On the other hand, there is an urgent need to monetise assets which are idle or non-performing," he said. 

Shourie laid emphasis on disclosure of all financial transactions by PSUs and banks and financial institutions. 

"PSUs and financial institutions are often forced to buy shares of other PSUs to allow them to raise money. Quarterly disclosure of financial transactions by all PUSs, banks and financial institutions should be made," he said. 

The senior Bharatiya Janata Partyleader also criticised policy makers' reliance on only official data which are often vastly different from the indices on the ground. 


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Government will take time to control inflation: Arun Shourie

KANPUR: With inflation touching a five-month high of 6.01 per cent in May, senior BJP leader and former Union Minister Arun Shourie today said the new government will take some time to control rising prices. 

"Inflation is not like an electric switch that can be turned off or on anytime...the new government will take some time to control the rising prices," he said. 

Shourie was talking to reporters on the sidelines of the 46th convocation ceremony of IIT Kanpur, where he was awarded a 'Doctor of Science' degree. 

His remarks came against the backdrop of rising prices of essential food items like vegetables, fruits and cereals that pushed up inflation to five-month high of 6.01 per cent in May. Food inflation stood at 9.50 per cent last month, while the manufactured inflation was 3.55 per cent. 

Shourie blamed the previous UPA government for the price rise, saying, "During the UPA regime, India's debt had increased considerably. So the new government may have to take a few tough economic decisions. Only then inflation will be controlled." 

Holding the UPA government responsible for India's slow growth, he said, "The previous government had considerably reduced development expenditures because it could not decrease the non-development expenditures. For this, the new government will have to take some tough decisions on the economic front only then will the people get relief from inflation." 

Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) K Radhakrishnan was the chief guest of the function. 

Telling students about India's Mars mission, the ISRO chief said the biggest challenge will be on September 24 when the spacecraft is supposed to enter the orbit of Mars. 

If it is done successfully, India will be the first Asian country to place its spacecraft in the orbit of the planet and the world's first country to do so in the first attempt, he said. 

A total of 1,273 IIT students were awarded degrees at the ceremony.

Expect agricultural reforms from the Modi government, says Arun Shourie

CNBC-TV18 | 17-Jun-2014 08:45 AM

New Delhi: Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Arun Shourie has said that one can expect major agriculture reforms from the Narendra Modi government. In an exclusive interview to CNBC-TV18, Shourie talked about what he expects from Modi's government in the field of economy.

He said that Modi government has to put India back on the high-growth path, scrap controversial laws like the retrospective taxation law, revive investments and bring in big bang reforms. Arun Shourie also said that increasing the minimum support prices without letting it have an impact on inflation is impossible.

"I am not an expert on agriculture, but certainly the idea that you go on raising the Minimum Support Price and it will not affect the inflation is certainly not possible," Shourie said.

On retrospective tax, Shourie said, "One of the most regressive thing was the legislation overturing the Supreme Court judgement and imposing retrospective taxation and it will be very good that government anncouces that we will never go for retrospective taxation. Second they must say that they will contest them in the High Court and not in the SC. Tax administration has gone haywire in the past."

Meanwhile, with inflation for the month of May touching a six month high, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that the food inflation is rising due to hoarding of stocks. Jaitley said that fears of a weak monsoon have prompted hoarding. He also said the state governments should take effective steps to ensure that hoarding is discouraged.

He also said he was hopeful of the inflation coming down soon. The wholesale price inflation crossed 6 per cent - up from 5.20 per cent in April. Jaitley also said that the government is watching the rupee movement closely and that the Iraq crisis and fear of rise in prices of oil is affecting the stability of the rupee.


India needs a Reforms Commission instead of advisory councils: Former telecom minister Arun Shourie

NEW DELHI: Former telecom and disinvestment minister Arun Shouriebelieves that India doesn't need multiple advisory councils but aReforms Commission that sets the agenda for the country.

"Everyone does similar work and whoever is closest to Sonia Gandhi(in UPA) or Narendra Modi will get heard. The Planning Commissionshould be replaced by a Reforms Commission that tells us where to move forward and how, instead of just doing the same old fund allocations," he said.

Firmly backing the Rajasthan government's decision to amend outdated labour laws to boost job creation rather than wait for the Centre to change these laws, Shourie said this is the only way forward on subjects in the concurrent list of the Constitution.

"Such changes will solve many of the issues where investments are stuck. Labour laws don't help labour, they are only anti-jobs. The fact that you need the government's permission for retrenchment means it's redundant as no government will grant such an unpopular move," he said. Breaking of status quo, said Shourie, is critical for India to move ahead, and it is important to promote competition among states to attract investments, improve working conditions and create jobs.

States could similarly take the lead in the land acquisition law, which the Centre may find difficult to amend. "Under the new land acquisition law, you can't set up a factory for four years. But if it's on the concurrent list, some progressive states can reduce that time frame through state laws," Shourie said.

There is speculation that the former minister would get a critical role in theModi administration, but Shourie categorically said that he is neither speaking on behalf of the BJP or the government.

"Trade unions only represent a small part of even the country's organised labour force. Do you want the process of economic growth and development to be mortgaged to a handful of people? This is the real problem in India. People who are in, don't want to let anyone else enter. And those who are out, will try to get in even through a window," he said, referring to trade unions' opposition to labour law reforms.

Shourie recalled instances from the previous NDA government when existing players opposed changes in the telecom licensing regime or even Air India's disinvestment. "The people who opposed Air India's disinvestment are the same ones who are now opposing the entry of new carriers like Air Asia," he said.

Commenting on the remarkable 'change of discourse from caste to development' in India's politics, Shourie said this had happened because of state chief ministers, 'whether it was Narendra Modi in Gujarat or Shivraj Singh Chouhan inMadhya Pradesh or later evenAkhilesh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh.'

"By contrast, we used to have Lalu Prasad tell people in Bihar that they don't need roads as they have no cars to drive," Shourie said. Calling for a paradigm shift in the Centre-state relations, Shourie suggested that the fund allocation formulas of the Finance Commission and Planning Commission be changed in order to reward states that take progressive steps.

"There are 7 lakh headmasters in India with no leadership skills... if you make imparting skills to them a norm, for instance, and tailor allocations on the basis of adoption of better policies and practices by states to improve things like primary healthcare and the public distribution system, that would go a long way. That doesn't mean that poor states have to be left behind," he stressed.


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