Ahluwalia says scope for divestment, higher outlays

June 8th, 2009 - 6:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Pratibha Patil New Delhi, June 8 (IANS) The government has the scope to raise funds by selling shares in state-run firms even as subsidies need to be recast to benefit the needy, Montek Singh Ahluwalia said Monday, taking over as deputy chairman of the Planning Commission for a second successive term.
“There is scope to raise significant resources through selling government stakes in the state-run companies,” Ahluwalia told reporters at his first press conference after he was named the deputy chief of the plan panel.

“We have started some discussion with the finance ministry on what should be the appropriate size of the plan expenditure in the current fiscal year,” Ahluwalia said. “This is something where the finance ministry will take a view.”

The interim budget, he said, had made significant hikes in allocation, including the stimulus packages that were announced earlier, even as the government examines what more can be done while maintaining fiscal prudence.

The Oxford-educated economist, who expects the country’s growth to exceed last year’s 6.7 percent, also said subsidies needed to be recast, taking a cue from President Pratibha Patil’s address to a joint session of parliament.

The president, while outlining the priorities before the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, had said that a nationwide debate was necessary to ensure that state doles reached only the needy.

She said the Manmohan Singh government also believed in Indian citizens holding stakes in public sector companies without diluting the state equity in them below 51 percent.

“This way, it won’t dilute the government’s position,” Ahluwalia said.

The plan panel deputy chairman also spoke about the need for reforms in the power sector so that energy availability and prices are linked to the global levels. The poor though, he added, can get a subsidy.

Ahluwalia said the first phase of the massive rural development plan - called Bharat Nirman - had more or less concluded successfully. “For the second phase of Bharat Nirman, we may suggest more schemes.”

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