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President Unveils UPA Agenda

Government is looking to target the worst-hit areas of the economy

The Manmohan Singh-headed Congress-led UPA coalition seems to be in no mood to waste any time after securing a better-than-anyone-expected mandate from the people of the country during the recently-held general elections.

Merely two weeks into the office, the government did not mince words when it came to restoring the growth momentum of the economy by addressing the concerns of sectors which are most adversely affected by the global financial crisis.

In an address to the joint session of Parliament, President Pratibha Patil, presented the agenda of the government, which clearly indicated the government’s fears about expectations of a further slowdown in the economy in the coming days.

"Growth is expected to slow in the present fiscal due to the global crisis. Therefore, one must lay emphasis on economic management to counter it by inclusion of both sectoral and macro-level policies," Patil added.

The President stressed that the government would give top-most priority to those sectors that would restore the growth momentum in the economy. The government would especially be targeting infrastructure, exports, small and medium enterprises and housing, which it feels are among the most badly affected sectors.

Among the big-ticket issues that would dominate government thinking would include, said the President, developing a roadmap for listing public sector units, recapitalise public sector banks, and bring in the pension reforms bill.

Bringing back to life some of the more critical points that dominated the headlines during the elections, the President spoke on the issue raised by opposition parties, primarily regarding illegal money stashed in secret bank accounts abroad. Sensing that this may well be a topic of concern and seeking to show that the government was addressing the problem, the President said that the present government would work closely to chalk out a road map for looking at different issues which would include a close coordination with various countries so that the money stashed away illegally can be brought back home.

The poor too were on the agenda, with the government looking to push through social schemes to address their plight. The President said that the government intends to come out with the National Food Security Act very soon as mentioned in the Congress manifesto. Under the proposed act, the government intends to provide 25 kg of rice or wheat at Rs three per kilogramme per month to families below the poverty line (BPL).

In a way admitting the wide scale problems hogging the Public Distribution System (PDS) prevalent in the country, a matter that received a whole lot of attention when inflation was ruling at over 8 per cent mark, President Patil said that the proposed legislation would also be used to bring in broader reforms in the PDS system, she said.

Trying to encourage the Public-Private Parternship (PPP), Patil in her speech said that efforts should be made to encourage PPP apart from expansion of public investment in infrastructure sectors.

However, she did not mince words as far as problems faced by the government to raise finances for all these activities was concerned, saying, “The critical constraint faced by us is to finance the investment and the government is very serious about bringing out innovative steps in the area which would be consistent with a medium-term strategy of prudent fiscal management”.