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NEW DELHI-The Budget in Perspective

The Budget in Perspective B M THE instant and instinctive reaction to the Budget for 1978-79 has been one of disappointment. This has been so on all sides. The captains of industry and trade feel that they have not got the concessions and incentives which they expected and for which they had worked so hard. Leftist opinion has, on the other hand, strongly denounced the additional tax burdens which have been heaped on the people by the general, across-the-board hike in excise duties. So far as the Finance Minister is concerned, he is seen to shrug off the critics. His stand is that everybody is so preoccupied with his own particular interests and problems that there is just no appreciation of his difficulties as Finance Minister.

NEW DELHI- Ushering in the Free Economy

B M NEW DELHI presents a picture of utter confusion these days precisely when important and one might even say critical decisions are required to be taken. So many lobbies are at work; even the various ministries and departments are themselves tending to function more as lobbies on their own or as representatives of other lobbies. The result is that there is hardly any kind of coherence or direction on the part of the government as a whole. The discussions on the annual plan for 1978 79 in Yojana Bhavan were a good indicator of this state of affairs. They became an occasion for staking large claims for financial allocations on the part of state governments as well as the Central ministries and for horse trading over these claims. In the process the Planning Commission was put in a rather awkward position. Its main function became one of pruning the claims made, mainly on the ground that resources were not in sight for higher allocations, especially as there was no assurance from either the Centre or the states that they would make the requisite effort to mobilise additional resources. It then began to be said in the corridors of the ministries and also in the state secretariats that, far from being an agency for growth, the Planning Commission was being ultra-conservative and was holding back growth.

NEW DELHI-Deficit Financing Becomes Respectable

Deficit Financing Becomes Respectable B M THE Prime Minister at his first press conference in the New Year displayed a great deal of flexibility on the vexed question of deficit financing about which he had been earlier extremely rigid. This is attributed to the painstaking effort of Finance Minister II M Patel and Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission D T Lakdawala who have finally succeeded in convincing Morarji Desai that deficit financing will not be as bad as all that and that it will lie necessary if the outlay for the annual Plan for the next year is to he at all respectable. It was only alter succeeding with this ticklish mission that Patel as well as Lakdawala have come out with some hold' statements about stepping up investment and growth.

NEW DELHI-Unhappy Finance Minister

be enforced vis-a-vis individuals and newspapers and other organisations' Also radio and TV bring controlled entirely by government, the jurisdiction of the Council should extent to these media besides the government advertising agencies like the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity and the Publicity or Public Relations Departments of state governments. These advertising outfits are qualitatively different from private advertising agencies in that public funds are in volved and government, of all agencies, should not use advertisements as an instrument of pressure on newspapers. 'The practice of the DAVP deciding the rates (which in turn determine the rates fixed by the state governments and public sector undertakings) is exceptionable; the papers should be tree to determine their rates and it should be open to the government agencies to accept them or not.

NEW DELHI-Business Lobby Gets Busy

NEW DELHI Business Lobby Gets Busy B M IT is usual for lobbies of various kinds to become" active at this time when the work on budget-making for the coming year is under way. The most active and also the most sanguine of such lobbies is that of organised business and industry. It appears to sense a certain measure of benevolence on the part of the political leadership towards its role and believes that there is no need to worry about all the talk of shift in proprites towards agriculture and greater support for small and unorganised industrial activity. Such talk is regarded, in fact, as a right populist posture with which business and industry should not hesitate even to associate. After all, whenever the present politicians talks of such shifts in priorities, this is always accompanied by fervent appeals to Indian industry and business, especially the big business houses, to help the Janata government to bring about these shifts. The shifts in favour of agricultural development and rural and small-scale industries are, therefore, seen by shrewd representatives of business houses as something relevant to the- deployment of resources in the public sector and not to the private sector. On the contrary, it is expected that the. new orientation in government cy if really carried through, will result in leaving the field clear for private enterprise instead of restricting its growth.

NEW DELHI-More Flexible Than Ever

NEW DELHI More Flexible Than Ever B M GEORGE FERNANDES has at last found the way to present his much- promised industrial policy statement. He laced it with repeated assertions of a break with the Nehru legacy and the denunciation of the poor performance of the previous regime. But even a cursory reading of the lengthy statement shows that it hardly squares with all the hard-sell advance publicity for the "new" Janata industrial policy. For one thing, Fernandez was hard put to it to explain why he failed to come forward with a brand new industrial policy resolution in place of the much- maligned 1956 Resolution. He merely asserted by way of explanation that it was always open to him to convert his statement into a full-fledged resolution. That, of course, may be readily conceded. But, as the Secretary to the Industry Ministry in briefing the press admitted, the 1956 Resolution stands and has not been rescinded and, further, there was hardly anything in that re- solutfon to which serious objections might be raised, Fernandes' broadsides against the industrial policy of the previous government thus has no particular significance except as a currently fashionable, posture.

NEW DELHI-India as Capital Exporter

NEW DELHI India as Capital Exporter B M HOW exactly to draw down the swelling foreign exchange reserves is becoming a major problem before the government The liberalisation of rules for foreign travel and releases of exchange for students abroad, within the established frame, are obviously too inadequate and hardly do anything more than tinker with the problem. The fact, on the contrary, is that even while anxiety is felt all round on this score, remittances continue to pour in and even the trade balance is widening in favour of India. Whatever has been done by way of import liberalisation is simply not working. Considering the sluggish economic activity, there is little possibility of a negative trade balance emerging. Several official committees have been appointed and are hard at work to find the way out of this embarrassing position.

NEW DELHI-Free-for-All Economic Policy

NEW DELHI Free-for-All Economic Policy B M AT a special press conference called to answer criticisms of the Janata party's economic policy statement, adopted by its working committee last week, Chandrashekhar, president of the party, said that much of the criticism was 'sheer cynicism' born of a 30-year history of unfulfilled promises. How far the Janata party itself will fulfil its promises and dispel this 'cynicism' is yet to be seen.

NEW DELHI-Putting Labour on Leash

NEW DELHI Putting Labour on Leash B M THE round of consultations for a comprehensive industrial relations bill are over. The Union Labour Minister failed to get unqualified approval for his ideas from the 30-man committee comprised of trade unionists and employers

NEW DELHI-Plan-Making Exercises

NEW DELHI Plan-Making Exercises B M IT was easy enough to talk glibly of reorienting development planning and giving it a new content by large-scale generation of employment and meeting the essential needs of the mass of the people, especially in the rural areas. But getting down to planning in the concrete on that basis has proved to be a more complex and demanding task. The planners are finding this out in the course of their preliminary exercises for the drawing up of a plan for the next five years under the new rolling plan system. Incidentally, the term 'sixth five-year plan' still gets mentioned in the course ot tins work, probably out of sheer habit or because that is an easier way of presenting their problems to the political leadership and the press.

NEW DELHI-Power Programme Heading for a Crash

THE representatives of the Federation of Power Engineers met the wrong man last week when they attempted to make the government authority wise about what was ailing the power sector and what should really be done to set matters right. They found the energy minister, Ramchandran, rather impatient and in a hurry to end the talk with them when they tried to explain to him that the current noises about a crash programme for power would not achieve the desired results since it was based on wrong assumptions and lacked competent professional handling. This was no fault of Ramchandran, however, even if the power engineers were disappointed by his indifferent attitude to such a vital problem. It is fairly well known by now that Ramchandran is only the formal head of his ministry for routine administration work. Policy decisions and planning have been taken over by others in the government, among whom the industry minister, George Fernandes, is most active.

NEW DELHI-Danger Signals in Industrial Relations

NEW DELHI Danger Signals in Industrial Relations B M AFTER the' initial good work of correcting the more gross and obvious distortions of the Emergency, the inherent weaknesses of the Janata party's political and government set-up are beginning to show at a disconcertingly fast pace. The management or. industrial relations is no exception to this state of affairs.


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