India will push economic reforms with consensus: Chidambaram

July 31st, 2008 - 8:04 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of P. Chidambaram

New Delhi, July 31 (IANS) The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government will not only push its economic reforms agenda but is also confident of reaching a broad political consensus on them, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said here Thursday. “We are not afraid of facing parliament,” Chidambaram told a panel discussion, attended by his predecessor in North Block and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Jaswant Singh, besides several serving ministers, among others.

“We will bring about a consensus on various reforms bills,” he told the event, organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) - which also saw the launch of a book.

The book, authored by noted columnist Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar, is titled “Escape from the Benevolent Zookeepers - The Best of Swaminomics” published by the Times Group.

Chidambaram said but for one political party - which he did not name, all others wanted India to push ahead with economic reforms. He was obviously referring to the Left parties that have been opposing reforms.

“Today tempers are running high. But the temper will cool down as we proceed with reformative action,” he said, adding differences, if any, were on just some clauses in the bills proposed to be introduced.

One of the main legislations pending before a group of ministers is to increase the foreign investment limit in insurance sector from the present 26 percent to 49 percent and to open up the pension funds industry.

Similarly, while foreign investors can acquire up to 74 percent in Indian banks, their voting rights - that translates into effective management control - has been limited to 10 percent. Industry wants parity in voting rights.

Aiyar said the most important issue required of policy-makers was a reform of mindsets - which Chidambaram said no other person had been able to achieve than what was accomplished by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“Dr. Manmohan Singh changed the idiom and language of the finance ministry,” he said, referring to the prime minister’s stint in North Block between 1991 and 1996 that saw India pursue economic reforms like never before.

According to Jaswant Singh, while there were several promises made on reforms by the current government, there was a huge gap when it came to delivering on these assurances.

“The question is how effectively the government delivers policy,” he said.

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