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India's New Government Reveals Policy Agenda - 2004-05-27

India's new government has revealed its policy agenda, which it says will guide the nation toward continued economic growth and new empowerment for the poor. The Congress Party of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh won an upset victory earlier this month, when millions of poor voted to turn out the previous administration.

The coalition headed by Prime Minister Minister Manmohan Singh says it remains committed to economic reform with a human face. On Thursday, the prime minister unveiled the coalition's "Common Minimum Program," a six-point plan for the government's five-year term in office.

The plan includes protecting social harmony, empowering women and poor people, especially farmers, and Prime Minister Singh said, continuing India's high rate of economic growth.

?To ensure that the economy grows at least seven to eight percent, in a sustained manner, over a decade, and in a manner that generates employment, so that each family is assured of a safe and viable livelihood,? he said.

The release of the document follows days of political tug-of-war between the prime minister's Congress Party and four communist parties, the support of which, the coalition needs to maintain its parliamentary majority.

In an apparent concession to the communists, the government has said it will not privatize profitable state-owned companies, despite warnings by economists that those companies are a burden to the economy.

The document pledges to stimulate foreign investment, but Biswajit Dhar, an analyst with the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, says the government is failing to talk about needed improvements in the country's infrastructure.

?You can have all kinds of nice policies. You can say that foreign investment is welcome here, and we will offer all kinds of incentives,? Mr. Dhar said. ?But I do not think that ? is ever going to come with the kinds of infrastructure facilities we have in this country.?

In addition to economic policies, the government has pledged to pursue peace with neighboring Pakistan. The government also says it wants to renew ties with Arab nations.