Excerpts from the PM's speech at the Council on Trade and Industry meeting
When we met in May last year, many of you had spoken about Government and industry partnering to address the challenges facing our economy.
Your enthusiasm resulted in the formation of sub-committees of the Council on five thematic areas. I am happy to know that the sub-committees have given their recommendations. We will carefully study these to see how they can be useful in tailoring our policies to achieve the desired outcomes.
Wherever I meet representatives from our industry and businesses, the question I am most often asked is whether economic reforms will continue. You should have no doubt on this score. The economic reforms of the past have brought us advantages and I can assure you that we will continue travelling on this path. We might do it gradually, and in a manner which builds a consensus for economic and social change. But I assure you that we will persevere.
Tax reforms, especially the introduction of a Goods and Services Tax, are a very important part of our agenda. So also are financial sector reforms. We are also committed to major reforms in education and skill development. We have started a program to raise resources by sale of equity in public sector enterprises. Legal reforms aimed at reducing delays are another key priority.
We need to develop long-term debt markets and to deepen corporate bond markets. This in turn calls for strong insurance and pension sub-sectors. Some of the reforms needed, especially in insurance, involve legislative changes. We have taken initiatives in this area and will strive to build the political consensus needed for these legislative actions to be completed. We need to improve futures markets for better price discovery and regulation. We also need to remove institutional hurdles to facilitate better intermediation.
You are all aware of the new challenges we face in an increasingly open engagement with the world economy. We need to deal effectively with the consequences of rising oil, food and commodity prices, political upheavals in many countries and unprecedented natural disasters in various parts of the world.
In recent months, inflation and food inflation in particular, has been a problem. We want to deal with it in a manner that the growth rhythm is not disturbed. I believe we have pursued prudent fiscal and monetary policies to strike the right balance between growth and inflation. I am hopeful of seeing lower levels of inflation in the coming months.
Manufacturing remains an area where we need to improve our performance. The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion and National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council are working together on a comprehensive manufacturing policy which would seek to improve industrial infrastructure and the business environment, and encourage development of appropriate technologies and human resources.
We have made a conscious effort to strengthen international diplomacy and aid our industry in their businesses internationally. It is a matter of great pride for the country that many of our industry houses are recognized names throughout the world.
The country's increasing engagement with the world economy has resulted in increased volumes of trade in goods and services. We are ensuring that our interests are protected in negotiations at the WTO and are also entering into various bilateral and regional trade agreements in order to create greater opportunities for our trade and industry. We are confident that our industry shall ably meet the new challenges of increased competition that come with emerging new opportunities afforded through these agreements.
We are committed to ensuring compliance of environment laws and at the same time reviewing the regulatory institutions and implementing frameworks to ensure that they are rule based, and aligned to the legitimate needs and aspirations of local populations and of businesses alike. Captains of Indian industry have to set standards in this regard, which could then become the norm for other businesses to follow. I am happy that the corporate sector has responded positively to the challenge of sustainability and some of the Indian models of integrating sustainability in core business processes are being showcased as the best in the world.
Let me again reaffirm our Government's commitment to providing an enabling environment conducive to the growth of the corporate sector in our country. Our Government is aware of the many challenges that our industry faces, like the infrastructure deficit. We will do everything possible to help it overcome these challenges. I have said on an earlier occasion that I am aware of the nervousness in some sections of the corporate sector arising out of some recent unfortunate developments. We stand committed to ensuring that our industry moves ahead with confidence and without fear or apprehension. The Government is committed to improving the quality of governance. We are considering all measures, including legislative and administrative, to tackle corruption and improve transparency. Comprehensive steps have been taken to strengthen the intelligence and implementing institutions to combat the menace of black money and rein in corruption. A Group of Ministers has been entrusted the task of considering issues relating to enunciation of public procurement standards, formulation of a public procurement policy, review and abolition of discretionary powers enjoyed by Ministers, and introduction of an open and competitive system for the use of natural resources.