P.M.'S KEY-NOTE ADDRESS AT THE CII PLENARY SESSION
The Prime Minister, Shri Atal Bihari
Vajpayee delivered the key-note address at the National Conference
and Annual Session of Confederation of Indian Industry, here today.
The theme of the Conference was "Going Forward : Big Ticket
Growth or a Mild Recovery". Shri Sanjiv Goenka, President
CII and Shri Ashok Soota, Vice President CII were among those
present on the occasion.
Following is the text of Prime Minister’s
the key-note address:
thank you for inviting me for the concluding session of this annual
conference of CII.
I begin, I must confess that, unlike some others, I am unable
to see the deep symbolic meaning attached to the inaugural and
concluding sessions of a CII conference. If invitations to inaugurate
or conclude conferences could make them speculate about an impending
change in the direction of the political winds, then I must say
that such people seem to think that chambers of commerce and industry
have more powers to make and unmake governments than the people
are not expected to know the art of doing business. But if there
is one thing that we should learn from you, it is this: It does
not make business sense to count one’s chickens before they are
the people of our country elect their Parliament, they expect
it to run for five years. Those who have the people’s mandate
to govern are expected to discharge their responsibility well.
And those who have been mandated by the people to sit in the Opposition
are similarly expected to play their due role.
the time comes to elect a new Parliament, everyone has a chance
to go back to the people. Whatever the people decide is supreme
in a democracy.
in recent years to destabilize governments, often those that had
the support of the destabilizers, have neither helped the cause
of business, nor have they done any good to our democracy.
is what I tried to convey the other day, while flagging off the
celebrations to mark 150 years of the Indian Railways — that let
everything run on its proper tracks. Let there be no derailment
of anything anywhere.
wish to tell this gathering of businessmen that our Government
cannot be derailed. It is stable. It is here to stay. And it is
here to stay for its full term. You will continue to do business
with us, and we will continue to do business with you.
it was not my intention to impart a political tone to
my speech this evening. But the climate of debate in our country
in recent months has become so highly vitiated — by half-truths,
exaggerations, and polemical assertions — that even the CII platform
was not spared.
the business community cannot remain unaffected by what is being
said and written about our country — both within and without.
It is one thing for all of us within our country to wake up to
the wrongs that have happened and to correct them — with determination,
diligence, and unity. But it is quite another to engage in such
a shrill and divisive campaign that it presents a picture of national
disunity and encourages outsiders to start giving us sermons.
me be specific. The recent communal violence in Gujarat has shocked
and traumatized all of us. I have perhaps spoken for the entire
nation by describing it as a blot on India.
it doesn’t help anybody, if the complexity of the situation is
ignored. It doesn’t help the interests of our country; it doesn’t
help the cause of secularism; it doesn’t even help the interests
of business if we forget that the violence in Gujarat is but a
temporary aberration, and not a fundamental fissure in our society.
am, therefore, astonished when I hear some people ask: "Of
what use is the consensus among major political parties on economic
policies when the fault-line is deep, when there is a fundamental
difference of opinion on the very nature of the Indian nation-state,
on the very character of our society?"
who proclaim that India’s secular moorings and foundations are
being systematically destroyed, do not know how deep and strong
the roots of our secularism are. They only display their ignorance
of India’s history and of the cultural wellsprings of our nationhood
by painting such an alarmist picture. They forget that Indian
secularism has withstood even the catastrophe of Partition, which
was effected on communal lines.
a tragedy is a tragedy. Let no one belittle the crime that has
been perpetrated in Gujarat — either in Godhra or elsewhere. As
far as the Government is concerned, I have said this before and
I repeat it today — the inquiry will be fair and the guilty shall
not go unpunished, irrespective of the community or the organization
that they may belong to. At the same time, let no one use this
tragedy to make such sweeping generalizations about the happenings
in India that they demoralize Indians and present a wrong picture
of India abroad.
am confident, and I want you to share this confidence, that we
shall weather the current crisis in Gujarat, just as we have overcome
many a crisis in the past.
all of us believe in India.
all of us believe in India’s resilience.
us introspect and rediscover our oneness.
us reaffirm that we are one people, despite all our diversities.
Even the Preamble of our Constitution, starts with the proclamation,
"We the People of India …" and not "We the Peoples
us not forget that ours is one national culture that integrates
the many proud cultures that have nestled in our land.
am saying all this to an audience of businessmen, because you
too have a responsibility to project the correct picture of what
is happening in our country, both here and abroad.
now turn to the theme of your conference. "Going Forward:
Big Ticket Growth or a Mild Recovery". I think that it is
not necessary to go forward to get to a mild recovery; the economy
has already overcome the recent slowdown and achieved more than
a mild recovery.
a low of 4 percent GDP growth two years ago, our economy is expected
to grow by 5.4 percent in the last financial year. This year,
it is expected to do even better — above 6 percent. The Global
Economic Outlook of the United Nations has just predicted an annual
growth of 6.4 percent in 2003, which will make us stand second
only to China on the growth chart. Inflation is under check. Forex
reserves are at a record high. Indeed, our high growth potential
and our reasonably good performance have attracted the world’s
attention. Combined with our many foreign policy initiatives,
this has raised the stature of India in the world. Hence, there
is no need at all for either diffidence or despair.
we have to go forward — and I have no doubt that we will go
forward — we should aim at a faster recovery and march rapidly
towards what you businessmen like to call "big ticket"
growth. Therefore, when our Finance Minister Shri Yashwant Sinha
talks about our determination to achieve 7 or 8 percent GDP growth,
he knows that he has his feet on the ground.
again, I would say, "Believe in India". And I would
add; "Believe also in our Finance Minister".
do we go forward to achieve those ambitious growth rates that
all of us have always wanted our country to achieve, and that
are absolutely necessary to make a big dent on poverty and unemployment?
In the past half-century, a sustainable 8 percent GDP growth seemed
in the realm of fantasy. But now, we are getting closer to it.
I have no doubt that India will cross this milestone in the Tenth
Plan that has just started.
India has achieved in the past few years is well known to you.
Indeed, some of these reforms were unveiled after extensive —
and, may I add, unprecedented — consultations with representatives
of the business community. For example, the telecom and IT sectors
have already started to show the fruits of reforms in a big way.
And these fruits have begun to reach the common man. Telecom tariffs
are down. And almost one thousand new telephone subscribers are
being added every hour. These are the fruits of the National Telecom
Policy of 1999, which, incidentally was opposed by much of the
several ambitious infrastructure projects are being implemented
today. The National Highway Development Project will soon change
the face of Indian roads. Its counterpart in the rural sector,
the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana will similarly bring lakhs
of unconnected and ill-connected villages to the national and
global market. I assure you that the Golden Quadrilateral part
of this project will be completed by the end of next year.
fall in interest rates has helped industry across the spectrum.
Its most dramatic impact can be seen in the big jump in housing
finance loans. I am told that as much as Rs. 13,600 crores have
been loaned in the nine months from April to December last year
for constructing new houses — and that was before competition
hotted up in the housing finance market. Road and house building
activities have started to create lakhs of new employment opportunities.
Many more job opportunities will be created as private insurance
companies start their operations.
Sanjiv Goenka has made a reference to the opening up of unconventional
areas such as defense production to the private sector. I assure
you that we shall encourage public-private partnership in every
area of economic activity. I may add that the newly-adopted National
Tourism Policy as well as the National Health Policy give pivotal
importance to this partnership approach with the private sector.
a lot of good things are happening in our economy. Let not the
temporary disturbances in Gujarat cloud this basic fact.
Parliament is in session and therefore you will understand that
I cannot make any specific announcements. But I can tell you that
we have embarked on a major review of the system of implementation
of all the policies and programs of our Government. I am as aware
as all of you are about the many shortcomings in this regard.
These shortcomings are not the makings of our Government. They
have been plaguing the economy for several decades. The more I
look at the system of implementation, the more it appears like
a big and complex machine whose many parts are clogged, are rusty,
and are either under-performing or not performing at all.
example, the weaknesses in our judicial system continue to hurt
the climate of investment and business — both domestic and foreign.
We are therefore thinking of investing in the judiciary in a big
way — for upgrading the facilities in courts, for appointing more
judges, and for streamlining procedures. We also need to identify
and remove perverse incentives for resorting to unwanted litigation,
which is at the heart of the problem of the clogging up of the
sector reforms have proved to be another difficult nut to crack.
It is not that we have not tried. Our efforts have produced a
large degree of consensus among state governments about what needs
to be done. They now need to convert that consensus into concrete
action. The Ministry of Power, together with the Ministry of Finance
have chalked out a bold initiative to improve the health of State
Electricity Boards. I appeal to all the state governments to show
determination and urgency in implementing the agenda that they
have already agreed upon.
service reforms are another important area for improving India’s
index of implementation. I have faith in our bureaucracy’s abilities
and dedication. A motivated, professionalized civil service can
do wonders, and all of you know it. What is needed is a change
in its attitude, its knowledge-base, and its work culture — to
make it passionately result-oriented. Many bold steps are needed
to achieve this. As a first step, we want to bring more professionals
to work in the government at various levels. The appointment of
the new power secretary testifies to this commitment. A second
step will be the enhancement of the skills of civil servants,
and matching skills and knowledge to responsibilities.
sector undertakings continue to form a significant part of our
industrial and service economy. However, these are required to
work in the new competitive environment, while still being shackled
by old systems and procedures. Conversely, they have also been
provided with a large number of crutches. In my interactions with
PSU chiefs, I have heard all of them say that the lack of a level
playing field is the main obstacle in achieving better returns
on the enormous public investments made in their units. The time
has come for liberating our PSUs from all unnecessary shackles,
and then removing their crutches.
would say that all these and other imperatives together constitute
Governance Reforms that are long overdue. We need these reforms
both at the Centre and in states — to consolidate our achievements
and to tackle our diverse problems. All state governments, irrespective
of the parties that run them, have some achievements to their
credit. All are also saddled with many problems. What is needed
is greater sharing of experiences — of successes as well as setbacks.
far as I am concerned, I do not make any distinction between the
achievements of one state and the other, based on who is running
them. The successes of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are as important
to me as those of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. For, ultimately,
these are the successes of India. Similarly, the problems of Karnataka
and Kerala bother me as much as those of Himachal Pradesh and
Orissa. For, if India is to achieve "Big Ticket Growth",
we have to overcome the problems faced by all our states.
is why, I have been trying to drive home one overriding message
— namely, in matters of national security and national development,
there can be no place for politicization. The need of the hour
is Consensus and Greater Consensus; Partnership and More Partnership.
among political parties.
between the Centre and the States.
between the Government and Business.
between the Government and the People.
the end, I wish to return to the main theme of my address. India’s
secularism is too deep to be blown off course by temporary turbulence.
The Ship of the Nation is strong and reliable enough to weather
all storms and will soon leave the present turbulence behind.
Now, more than ever, is the time when we should return to the
agenda of development. Now, more than ever, is the time when we
should focus on the big opportunity that is beckoning us.
these words, I conclude my remarks and extend my best wishes to
the Confederation of Indian Industry.