New Delhi/Mumbai: Finance minister P. Chidambaram on Monday said the government will hold public sector units (PSUs) to account on meeting capital expenditure targets for the next fiscal year as part of efforts to revive investments in the Indian economy.

Addressing questions about last week’s Union budget on a Google+ Hangout, a virtual platform that enables simultaneous video chat between multiple users, the finance minister said he had done “the best he could have given the situation of the world economy".

The interaction, the first such by an Indian finance minister, featured questions from a panel of six and three selected questions sent online. The panel featured corporate executives, an economist, a student and a homemaker. The Hangout, also telecast live on YouTube, was attended by 3,747 people, according to its page. Last year, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi had conducted a similar discussion.

On being asked by Mahindra and Mahindra chairman Anand Mahindra on why he shied away from making some “big bang" announcements that could have triggered investments by companies, Chidambaram said that globally major economies are not doing well and no economy is talking about “big bang" measures right now.

He added that both private sector and public sector companies are sitting on piles of cash and PSUs have to achieve the investment targets that they have set for themselves or have to pay a special dividend to the government.

“For next year’s capital expenditure, we have just sent out the letters to PSUs. Each PSU has to fill out the proforma and tell us what their capex targets are for next year. We are going to monitor it very closely beginning from April. Every quarter, I will monitor what they are investing and if they don’t invest, we will hold the CMD (chairman and managing director) to account," he added.

On a query by Reechal Vardhan, a student of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, on the lack of clear-cut announcements with regard to women’s safety in the budget, Chidambaram said these measures have to be well though out and finalized. He added that the first women’s bank announced in the budget should be inaugurated by November.

He said he has already sent a note to the Prime Minister to hold inter-ministerial consultations for the project. “We are looking at six bank branches across six regions of the country," he said.

Chidambaram said the Internet will impact India in a big way and the country could even have a virtual political party. “There is a great future for the Internet in India and it can profoundly change the way young people think, act and behave in this country. It came in a small way in last elections of America, I don’t think it made a big impact but it could, we could even have a virtual political party in India with virtual membership through the Internet," he said.

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