India in new privatization drive

NEW DELHI, December 8, 2009 (AFP) – The Indian government will complete stake sales in three state-run companies by the end of the current financial year in March, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said Tuesday. Divestment of five percent each in the National Thermal Power Corporation and the Rural Electrification Corporation and 10 percent in Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited “is under implementation,” the minister told parliament.

The process would be completed “by the end of this financial year,” he added.

The statement follows an announcement last month that 10 percent of all listed state-run firms would be publicly traded.

After winning a strong re-election mandate in May, the Congress party-led government said it would press ahead with sales of stakes in state firms as it no longer had to depend on Communist support to survive in parliament.

Privatisation is opposed fiercely by leftist parties and unions.

Answering questions put by a Communist Party of India (Marxist) MP, Mukherjee said the fiscal situation was difficult and the stake sales would help mop up funds for social spending.

“This year the situation is extremely difficult,” he said.

“That is why we have suggeste