Little impact seen on reforms from ministerial recast

July 12th, 2011 - 9:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, July 12 (IANS) Amid a perception that economic reforms in India have come to a standstill, the latest recast of his ministerial team by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gives little signal that the process will be put back on track, experts maintain.

With a host of legislations covering areas like insurance, pension, taxation and land acquisition and policy decisions in sectors such as retail trade, banking and defence pending for long, stakeholders expected some direction emanating from the reshuffle.

But the exercise was rather disappointing, they maintain.

“Not much of a big bang will emerge from the changes given the fact that big portfolios, except the environment ministry, remain in the same hands,” said Utkarsh Palnitkar, chief executive of Pluripotent Capital and former partner with Ernst and Young.

“The entry of some younger talent, of course, is positive,” Palnitkar, who oversees the life science venture capital fund, told IANS, referring to Milind Deora being made the minister of state for telecom and IT and a similar rank being given to Jitendra Singh (home).

Paras Nath Choudhary, politico-economic researcher and former professor at the South Asia Institute of Heidelberg University, said shifting some ministers won’t re-energise the reforms process and that the government was expected to take some concrete steps.

Among the old team, most economic portfolios have been left unchanged including those of finance, telecom, commerce, heavy industry, power, civil aviation, small enterprises, renewal energy, petroleum, road transport, shipping and coal.

“This sort of knee-jerk reaction the government has taken to just a shift a handful of ministers and portfolios is not going to work,” Choudhary said. “There is so much of a lull in reforms and development that minor tinkering is not enough.”

But not all analysts saw the reshuffle to be entirely futile.

“The prime minister has shaken the cabinet. He has brought change where work was not happening. This will be an example to those who think they cannot be dropped,” said Shriram Khanna, professor at the Delhi School of Economics.

Analysts felt the focus should also be on governance as a whole and not just on key posts.

“Even in portfolios where new people have been inducted, the prime minister has changed just the minister — 99 percent of the ministry remains the same. Its just like changing the rider to motivate the horse to run faster,” Khanna said.

At the same time, the corporate sector heaved a sigh of relief that Jairam Ramesh was shifted out of environment and forests portfolio and given rural development, as he was seen as a evangelist for whom green concerns were more important than development.

The portfolio has been allocated to Jayanthi Natarajan.

N. Bhaskar Rao, co-founder of the Centre for Media Studies, felt the only visible signal from the reshuffle was the change at the environment ministry.

“Some new talent has come in but there is nothing else except that the environment ministry, which was being headed by a person who had been causing heartburn to many industries and their investors has been shifted,” he said.

Rajiv Pratap Rudy, who held the commerce and later the civil aviation portfolio in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government (1998-2004), did not mince his words. “The removal of Jairam marks the victory of corporate lobby with vested interests.”

(James Jose and Rohit Vaid can be reached at biz@ians.in)

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