Govt fears slowdown; commits to financial reforms and disinvestment

The roadmap of government's reform policies, sectoral growth agenda and disinvestment was spelled out by President Pratibha Patil in her address to joint sitting of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha where she said "our immediate priority must be to focus on management of economy...

"My government will focus attention on sectors that are adversely affected, especially SMEs, exports, textiles, infrastructure and housing," she said, adding this must be coupled with "expansion in public investment in infrastructure sectors including public-private partnership in the sector".

The government also announced selling up to 49 per cent equity in the PSUs through initial public offer (IPO) route, an initiative that could not see light of the day in past five years due to opposition from the Left parties.

"Our fellow citizens have every right to own part of the shares of PSUs while the government retains majority shareholding and control. My government will develop a roadmap for listing and people-ownership of PSUs while ensuring that government equity does not fall below 51 per cent," she said.

Observing that infrastructure development will be a key focus area for the next five years, Patil said bottlenecks and delays in implementation of infrastructure projects because of policies and procedures, especially in railways, power, highways, ports and airports would be systematically removed.

To fulfil the election promise of Congress, the President said the National Food Security Act would be enacted that assures food security to all.

"Every family below poverty line in rural as well as urban areas will be entitled, by law, to 25 kilograms of rice or wheat per month ar Rs 3 per kilogram. This legislation will also be used to bring about broader systemic reform in the public distribution system," she added.

On the financial sector initiatives, the President said there was a need to augment resources in the banking and insurance sectors in order to permit them to serve the needs of society better.

Towards this end the government would "recapitalise" the public sector banks to strengthen their financial position and also bring legislation to establish a regulator for the pension sector, she added.

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