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Saturday, Nov 23, 2002

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Two voices, two moods

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NEW DELHI, Nov. 22

THE contrasting perceptions within the Government on the disinvestment programme were evident on Friday, with the Finance Minister, Mr Jaswant Singh, voicing the Government's resolve to carry it out while the Disinvestment Minister, Mr Arun Shourie, expressed scepticism about the process.

Shortly after Mr Shourie had said that bidders of Government equity in State-owned companies had withdrawn due to the virtual halt to the disinvestment process, Mr Singh said, in the presence of the US Treasury Secretary, Mr Paul O' Neill, that the Government was fully committed to it. "There is no ambiguity on this," he said.

According to Mr Shourie, "Jab dukan hi bandh ho gayee, to khareedar kitni derbahar khade rahenge" (How long would buyers keep waiting outside the closed shop). His reaction was to queries from newsmen about the pulling out of several bidders recently in a few cases of disinvestment.

As for the December 7 deadline set by the Cabinet for taking a view on the HPCL -BPCL sell-off, he said the Prime Minister "knows about it".

Later at a joint press briefing on the Indo-US Economic and Financial forum, Mr Jaswant Singh said the Government was fully committed to disinvestment.

The Government, which views disinvestment as an integral part of the reform process, would resolve the differences within the ruling coalition through talks. "There is no ambiguity on the disinvestment process," he said.

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