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Decisions on economic issues deffered

The UPA, Left meet defers decisions on some key economic issues such as SEZs and disinvestment.

india Updated: Oct 04, 2006 23:22 IST

Even as Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday made a pitch for faster economic reforms, decisions on some key issues such as special economic zones (SEZs) were deferred at a meeting between the ruling coalition and its allies.

The only tangible outcome of the three-and-a-half hour meeting was a promise by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the women's reservation bill will be tabled in the next session of Parliament.

"The prime minister also assured us that the bill will not be interlinked with the issue of delimitation of constituencies," a senior Left party leader said after the meeting at the prime minister's official residence in New Delhi.

The Left parties had given a nine-page memorandum to the government a few months ago to which the government gave a point-by-point reply in 19 pages on Wednesday, sources said.

UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and the prime minister were among those who attended the meeting.

The Left parties have been particularly angry over the policy on SEZs. But with Commerce Minister Kamal Nath away in Geneva and in the absence of a consensus among the Left parties over use of farmland, they felt a detailed discussion can be held later.

The issue of double taxation treaty with Mauritius - another sore point with the Left parties, who feel the clause is misused by foreign funds to evade tax - was also discussed.

But Chidambaram sought to assuage feelings by saying similar treaties were in place with several countries and there was no issue of misuse, a senior leader of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) said.

The Left parties also categorically said they would not allow any kind of privatisation of state-run enterprises nor would they accept any move to dilute partial stake in such companies.

The meeting also discussed the issue of inflation and price rise - especially in essential commodities. In this regard, the Left wanted the government to look at the alleged misuse of forward trading in the commodities market.

Other issues that came up were macro-economic stability, resource mobilisation, food security, financial sector restructuring, agrarian policy and foreign capital.

But the Left leaders said the issue of China being singled out by the government while approving infrastructure projects was not discussed - this was one of the topics the Left parties wanted to take up with the government.

The Left parties also expressed anger at the lack of adequate money for rural development projects. They wanted the government to step up allocation for such projects from the present 2.5 per cent of India's gross domestic product (GDP).