'Speedy reforms can curb terrorism'
By Our Special Correspondent
NEW DELHI, FEB. 7. The visiting U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary, Kenneth W. Dam, today linked faster economic growth to fighting terrorism, saying that economic progress remained one of the strongest weapons against despair and hopelessness on which terrorism feeds.
During the day, Mr. Dam had a meeting with the Commerce Minister, Murasoli Maran. Later, he addressed Indian industrialists and interacted with mediapersons where he strongly advocated a faster movement on the economic reforms agenda. Dwelling on India's experience with liberalisation over the past decade, he said that in just four years since 1991, India's total trade increased from 16 per cent to 23 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) while its nominal GDP doubled in the same period. Since the Uruguay Round, India's total trade had grown by 44 per cent, an increase of 7.5 per cent annually, Mr. Dam said.
Calling upon India to liberalise its trade and investment climate, Mr. Dam said eight to nine per cent GDP growth was attainable in India provided the reforms process, which he felt had stalled somewhat, was carried forward. The prescriptions he forwarded were familiar - that Indian subsidies were large by international standards, the bureaucracy needed ``right-sizing'' and that there was need to reduce fiscal deficit by reducing public borrowing. In the case of financial sector reforms, he felt the Government should reduce its ownership of banks and mutual funds and the priority sector lending required a re-look.
Mr. Dam also suggested that money transfers should be regularised as people sought cheaper and easier ways of transferring money. If the process was regularised, there would be better control over the source and flow of funds, he felt.
He side-stepped an implicit question about the U.S. having different definitions of terrorism by saying this could be an issue, but the important thing was for countries to act the way they think proper. On terrorist organisations changing names to avoid sanctions and receiving money flows for their activities, Mr. Dam said this matter had to be followed carefully but intelligence agencies did get to know about organisations changing names sooner than later.
Mr. Dam was, however, quite categorical in asserting that financial experts should be associated with anti-terrorism activities since they had the expertise to analyse money flows, and credit card transactions. Banking and customs officials should also be associated with anti-terrorism activities, he added.
In the fight against international terrorism, Mr. Dam felt countries should share information so that it would not be easy for terrorist organisations to get away with their acts. About India's fight against terrorism, he said a number of steps had been taken by the Government to regulate financial transactions and nothing special remains to be done. ``I have no complaints,'' he added.
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