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Quality of public discourse big challenge in India: Jaitley

New Delhi, Oct 11 (IANS) A big challenge for India is to improve its understanding of issues and the quality of public discourse even as the country is gaining prominence as a major economic power, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Thursday.

“One of the big challenges is even though we are growing as an economy compared to our counterparts in the world, we are the largest democracy with free expression, we still have to improve both our understanding of issues and the quality of public discourse,” Jaitley said here.

Addressing the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG)’s conference on “Auditing and Accounting in a Digital Era”, he asked the state auditor to help improve the quality of discourse which needed to mature itself and rise above slogans and propaganda.

“I find these days the maximum comments come from people who only understand the issue on the surface without going down even to the first level,” he said.

Jaitley said the Goods and Services Tax (GST) checks tax evasion and brings in more people in the tax net, demonetisation brings money operating outside the system into the banking system and the formalisation of the economy helps all who gets into it.

“The Aadhar will be used as a platform not for snooping (as some people tried to project). But Aadhar will be used as a platform in order to ensure that subsidies don’t remain an unquantified amount, made for an unidentifiable section of people but subsidies are a specific amount and must reach targeted beneficiaries.”

Jaitley said as the world gets into the age of technology and India becomes the fastest growing economy in the world, “I think we need parallely to educate ourselves on the quality of discourse and the discourse can’t be merely limited to a one-line tweets.”

According to the Minister, the CAG can “improve the quality of discourse and help our people and policy makers understand” issues. The CAG reports should be “worded in a manner that it could be understood easily” and that there is no “loose sentence” which gets picked up to hijack the entire discourse, he said.

Further, Jaitley highlighted the fact that public sector enterprises (PSUs), which are regulated by pre-1991 legal regime during a monopoly environment, need to have a level playing field with the private players in sectors where both players are there.

“Now in sectors where there are both public and private sector players, the environment (set of regulations) for functioning for the two is entirely different,” he said citing differences like auditing of transactions, tendering and recruitment.

“Time has now come for us to use some mindspace that the pre-1991 regime of their (PSUs) functioning in a monopoly environment was entirely different from their functioning in a competitive environment.”

The Minister called for deliberations on how to provide level playing field to PSUs “if we want them to exist and survive with full financial strength”.

–IANS
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