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More reforms are coming, PM tells industry

business Updated: Jul 30, 2013 01:35 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Manmohan Singh

Desperate to reverse the slide in the economy, the government on Monday promised more reforms in the next two to three months even as top industrialists told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that "brave and bold" steps were needed to get delayed projects started, spur investments, spin jobs and multiply income.

Singh, who asked industrialists to "remove the mood of pessimism," met his Council of Trade and Industry, an advisory body comprising leading industrialists, to discuss steps to tone up the economy amid concerns that the government wasn't doing enough to remove investment hurdles.

"The Prime Minister wanted a report to be submitted (by the Council) within one month on what can be done in the next two to three months," a Prime Minister's Office (PMO) statement said.

"There was a detailed and lengthy discussion on the issues. While some expressed their concerns, some gave concrete suggestions," the PMO statement said.

Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, Infosys chairman NR Narayana Murthy, Wipro chairman Azim Premji, Bajaj Group chairman Rahul Bajaj, former HUL India chairman MS Vindi Banga, and chiefs of leading industry chambers-Ficci's Naina Lal Kidwai, CII's S Gopalakrishnan and Assocham's Rana Kapoor - among others, attended the meeting.

Industrialists also sought a moratorium on loan repayment for delayed projects, give out "pre-cleared projects and sought easier foreign investment norms.

Earlier this month, the government relaxed the investment caps for foreign investors in a range of sectors including telecom, high-tech defence production and insurance, but business leaders were of the view these weren't enough.

"The government needs to simplify deregulation. In multi-brand retail, for instance, it is next to impossible for investors to meet the condition of sourcing a third of merchandise from local small firms," an top executive, who attended the meeting, told HT requesting anonymity.

Finance minister P Chidambaram, commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma, planning commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and chairman of the Prime Minister's economic advisory council C Rangarajan were also present at the meeting.

"We have given suggestion in two categories, one for near term and one for longer run. For near term, we have suggested clearing of large projects and those projects which were cleared should now be executed," Kidwai said after the meeting that lasted nearly three hours.

The discussions centred on measures to steer India out of a web of economic mess--from a sharp slowdown in growth to a free-falling rupee, from industrial deceleration to reining in the current account deficit (CAD), and from ways to plug skill shortage to accelerating the implementation of key infrastructure projects.

Goplakrishnan urged the government to float issue long-term sovereign-guaranteed bonds to raise dollars from overseas investors.

The meeting, which took place on the eve of Reserve Bank of India's (RBI's) monetary policy, also discussed in detail the how measures such as retrospective taxation of corporate deals had hurt India's image as an investment destination.