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Put economics before politics: Adi Godrej tells govt on arresting rupee fall

Speaking to NDTV, Mr. Godrej said that even though the RBI was an independent body, it was imperative that it joins the government in the efforts to plug a leaking economy.
Put economics before politics: Adi Godrej tells govt on arresting rupee fall

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Adi Godrej, head of the Godrej group and former president of the Confederation of Indian Industries, today urged the government to put economics before politics to plug a leaking rupee and put the economy on the track to recovery.

Speaking to NDTV, Mr. Godrej also called for the government and the Reserve Bank of India to work in unison for the betterment of the economy.

"It is important to put economics before politics. Very often politics comes in the way of good economic decisions. Very often Parliament is adjourned. It is a shame Parliament has not functioned very well," he said, pointing to a series of adjournments the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha have seen in the last two sessions.

The weak rupee, which hit a record low of 61.21 yesterday, is extremely damaging to the economy, Mr. Godrej said, adding that a weak currency would lead to widening deficit and other macro-economic difficulties. The rupee today recovered to end at 60.14.

"Containment policies (to save the rupee) are essential. We need both short-term and medium to long-term fixes," he said.

Mr. Godrej laid part of the blame for a weak Indian economy on the non-functioning of Parliament, and said slow-decision making often meant interested investors backing out at the last minute.

"Decision making is very slow in the government. We need quicker decision making across the board. For example, in real estate, permission is very slow," he said.

He cited the example of the Goods and Services Tax, which is yet to be implemented. The GST is a tax regime aimed at replacing all indirect taxes levied on goods and services by the central and state governments.

Mr. Godrej's statement comes on a day when the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister are busy speaking to manufacturers and investors on steps to get the economy back on track.

While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today chaired a meeting that decided to enhance steel production capacity and raise textile exports, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram is in the United States for a series of meetings with companies such as Microsoft, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Wal-Mart to drum up foreign investment in the country.

Seeking greater cooperation between the government and the RBI, Mr. Godrej said that even though the RBI was an independent body, it was imperative that it joins hands with the government when it comes to economic growth.

"I know the RBI is an independent agency and not under government control. If we do not have good growth, we will have more problems," Mr. Godrej said.

Mr. Godrej also blamed heavy gold imports for the current weakness in the economy, saying the metal was of little economic use.

"Gold is an unnecessary expenditure and has very little economic value," he said.

Gold is second only to crude oil in India's import bill, which the government wants to cut back to ease the current account deficit and help the weak rupee back on its feet.

Gold imports into India, the world's biggest buyer of the metal, fell 80.56 per cent to 31.5 tonnes in June from the previous month.

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