December 07, 2005, New Delhi, Press Release
Cutting across party lines, 11 MPs launched the Parliamentarians’ Forum on Economic Policy Issues (PAR-FORE) today at a meeting hosted by CUTS International, a research, advocacy and networking group working on economic policy issues.
Kicking off the discussions, CUTS Secretary General, Pradeep S Mehta, as the moderator, welcomed all the participants and informed that the Forum has received over 45 acceptances from MPs, who wish to create a bi-partisan forum to address economic issues which can help India move forward.
Two issues which were slated for discussions at this meeting were: regulatory accountability and independence; and the Hong Kong Ministerial meeting of the WTO. However members felt that the WTO matter can be discussed in depth after the Hong Kong meeting is over, while that on regulatory issues demand closer attention. Other than these substantive issues, discussions were also held on the process of the Forum.
“This offers a very good platform for parliamentarians to share views and ideas on economic policy issues outside the more formal framework of the parliament, which can educate and help create a better consensus on pressing issues affecting the country”, observed Yashwant Sinha of the BJP, and one of the five initiators of PAR-FORE. “Whatever be our affiliation, all parliamentarians are patriotic and believe in ameliorating the lot of the poor. It is only the methods where differences in views exist, and these are debated”.
As the parliament was in session, many of the accepting MPs could not join the meeting. Besides that, the Government was making a statement in both the Houses on the Hong Kong ministerial meeting of the WTO.
“The fact that of the 11 MPs who are here, all of them are from different parties, reflects the universal need for such an important forum, which is very welcome. CUTS could organise subsequent sessions with analysis on economic bills which are presented in the parliament, so that we can understand them better and be able to effectively participate in the debates,” noted Dinesh Trivedi of the Trinamool Congress, and another initiator of PAR-FORE.
Swatantra Bharat Party’s MP, Sharad Joshi too joined all in complimenting CUTS for hosting such an important forum. “As it is, CUTS is rendering yeoman service to parliamentarians on several economic policy issues, by providing Bill BlowUps, it could continue to organise seminars, and interested MPs would find time to attend”, said Joshi.
“Addressing the gaps in the regulatory framework in India is badly required, and the papers produced by CUTS will help spur a good discourse,” added Joshi. “My worry is that all new regulatory bills, such as Seeds Act or Food Standards and Safety Act, coming up provide a regulatory authority, which are going to be manned by retired bureaucrats. It appears that the bills are being drafted to find jobs for civil servants after their super-annuation, rather than addressing the core concerns of the law”.
Marxist MP, Manoj Bhattacharya, said that increasingly we have more non-regulated sectors in India, while the imperative is to create and place sound regulators in the best interest of the people. He felt that the government is inclined towards a neo-liberal approach to economic management, which is not desirable. “The WTO is an example of this approach”.
“I see that there are parliamentarians from all political parties at this meeting, which is a very good sign. The forum should be able to create a better understanding without political compulsions”, noted Robert Kharshiing of the Nationalist Congress Party. “What bothers me is the increasing inequality in our country, and the failure of the delivery mechanism in delivering welfare schemes to the poor”.
Other MPs who attended the meeting and spoke were: N K Premchandran of the CPI(M) and another initiator of PAR-FORE; R. Sambasiva Rao; Khabiruddin Ahmed; Ram Singh Kaswan; Sartaj Singh and Annasahib Patil. Few people from the media were also present.
In conclusion, it was decided that CUTS would draw up a one year calendar, and organise meetings at Delhi on Wednesdays during the parliamentary session.