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What now, Dr Singh?

What now, Dr Singh?
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First Published: Sun, May 17 2009. 01 21 AM IST

Second term:This time, Singh may have a ‘better hand to deal with the economy’. Shahbaz Khan / PTI
Second term:This time, Singh may have a ‘better hand to deal with the economy’. Shahbaz Khan / PTI
Updated: Sun, May 17 2009. 11 37 AM IST
New Delhi: The United Progressive Alliance, or UPA, finds itself in a position in which no Indian government since the Narasimha Rao one of 1999 has been—a position from which it can continue the policies it embarked upon in 2004.
Second term:This time, Singh may have a ‘better hand to deal with the economy’. Shahbaz Khan / PTI
Better still, it finds itself free of the restrictive influence of the Left Front, which prevented it from taking key economic decisions in the first four years of its rule. Even better, with enough seats in the Lok Sabha it doesn’t need to make as many compromises as coalition governments usually do.
Sure enough, executives were quick to emphasize the continuity bit. “The prospect of a stable government and continuity augurs well for business,” said Y.C. Deveshwar, chairman, ITC Ltd. “We look forward to this optimism driving the dream of double-digit growth rates...”
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And an economist said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would have “a better hand to deal with the economy”. That would ensure continuity and stability, said N.R. Bhanumurthy, an associate professor at New Delhi’s Institute of Economic Growth. So, what will the UPA do in its second term?
Unlike last time, it doesn’t have a common minimum programme that serves as a statement of purpose. This time, there’s the manifesto. And a quick reading shows that it emphasizes continuity—interest relief to farmers with good credit history, a follow-up of sorts to the farm loan waiver programme, or introduction of the long-awaited goods and services tax, that will create a uniform tax code in India—and the kind of radical reforms that the market likes. One such is the promise of disinvestment (not privatization) of state-owned firms.
Mint presents the key tasks ahead for the next government:
Finance and economy
• Creating a new income-tax code simplifying the law and also codifying changes needed to accommodate higher incidence of cross-border transactions
• Finalizing the design of the goods and services tax and bringing about the required constitutional amendment
• Pushing the Bill to amend insurance laws and enhancing foreign direct investment in the business to 49% from 26%
• Approving the New Pension Scheme enabling quasi-judicial powers for the sector’s regulator
• Reintroducing the banking reforms Bill for private sector banks
• Launching a monthly measure of inflation
Industry and commerce
• Announcing the trade policy (an interim trade policy was announced in February)
• Approving free trade policies with South Korea and Association of Southeast Asian Nations
• Appointing a new commerce secretary
• Reviewing new foreign direct investment guidelines
• Passing required laws to get the competition commission up and running
Agriculture and labour
• Passing an Act on the creation of futures market regulator, the Forward Markets Commission
• Creating a warehousing regulator
• Finalizing the Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act
Power
• Reviewing slippages in more power generation capacity
• Expediting so-called ultra mega power projects of which only four out of nine planned are in the works
• Reviewing allocation of coal to power projects
• Driving investments in the transportation and distribution sectors
Oil sector
• Revising fuel prices or sharing the losses of government-owned oil marketing companies through a combination of oil bonds or upstream sharing
• Clarifying the scope of an income-tax holiday for seven consecutive years for natural gas production that will affect participatory interest in the eighth round of New Exploration Licensing Policy (Nelp-8)
Home affairs
• Finalizing staffing of National Investigation Agency and strengthening the new elite unit formed to tackle Naxalites
• Redrafting the Communal Violence Bill
• Managing a possible overflow of refugees from Sri Lanka
Railways
• Tying up funds with Asian Development Bank and the World Bank for Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor
• Reviewing tariffs to beat a slowdown in container traffic
• Deciding the future of the locomotive factories in Bihar
Shipping and transport
• Rebidding projects for which only one bid was received
• Drafting the final version of the Shipping Trade Practices Bill to regulate service providers
• Increasing coordination with the Navy and the Coast Guard in light of enhanced security threats to ports across India
SMEs
• Getting the Reserve Bank of India to approve 15% quota for lending to the small and medium enterprises sector
Health and family welfare
• Introducing Bill for centralization of licensing authority for regulating healthcare and drugs
• Notifying changes to Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, for tighten penalty for spurious drugs
Human resources
• Increasing public expenditure on education
• Implementing recommendations of the National Knowledge Commission
• Introducing Bill on foreign educational institutions
• Introducing Bill to regulate entry of private educational institutions
• Approving the Right to Education Bill, which aims to put every child between 6 and 14 in school
Telecom and IT
• Restarting the auction process for issuing so-called third generation, or 3G, licences
• Resolving the spectrum or airwaves policy and thereby address several related disputes
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First Published: Sun, May 17 2009. 01 21 AM IST