Interview : Several big ticket reforms announced in three years: Nirmala


The government has initiated a lot of big ticket and systemic reforms in the last three years and will continue efforts to consolidate the gains. Over 7,000 steps, big and small, have been taken so far to improve the ease of doing business in the country.

Excerpts of interview with the Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman are as follows:

Q: How do you see the three years of the government?

Nirmala: In the three years, both big ticket and systemic reforms have been taken in a calibrated fashion.The reforms have been undertaken at every level of governance. The government has the mandate for five years and there are two more years to go during which consolidation would happen.We need to consolidate and take up new things in the months to come.

Because of the various initiatives taken by the government, the confidence of overseas and domestic investors have improved. After coming to power in May 2014, the government started a range of reforms in various sectors.

Q: How do you see India’s exports performance in the coming months?

Nirmala: Consistently for 6-7 months, we are up without a break and I can see this as a clear indicator that our exporters are really against all odds performing, showing their capacity to withstand any headwinds and the global situation, I do not think that has improved drastically. Even if there are green shoots that people are seeing and saying that there are prospects that world trade might improve. It is yet to be significantly felt by others. But even in that type of environent, exporters are performing.

Q: Have we initiated the the review of the foreign trade policy (FTP)?

Nirmala: It is happning and we are covering all aspects. We commenced it in January. We shall not wait till September. Before GST, it should happen so that exports do not suffer on account of any doubts which have not been explained.

Q: Exporters have raised certain apprehensions about impact of GST on exports? How we are addressing that?

Nirmala: We are seized of these concerns and I have asked the commerce secretary and the duty drawback committee in the finance ministry to represent the case of exporters to the GST Council. We are trying to see how best other alternatives of dealing with revenue concerns as regards exports can be handled without making it cumbersome for exporters.

Q: By when we can see winding up of Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB)?

Nirmala: Foreign investment clearances are largely moved to an automatic route. SO the need for for the FIPB no longer exists. We feel that in the concerned regulatory ministries, there are enough regulatory bodies which can look at those concerns when an applications comes for FDI in that particular sector. If there are competent bodies in the ministries to take care of it for those left over sectors, they can handle it and therefore no need of FIPB. Even after that, if there are issues where nodal ministries requirement is there, we need to see how best we can reorganise.

Q: Is the commerce ministry working on revamping exisiting National Manufacturing Policy (NMP)?

Nirmala: Yes. I have initiated the move for it. I have instructed the DIPP (Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion) secretary to get into details of that. Why that has necessitated? Come September, Make in India completes three years. Roughly about 7000 small, medium, nano, big measures have been taken on ease of doing business and as a result of which, we feel that states too have realised that ease of doing business is a major agenda and they also see its benefit NMP is a 2011 vintage and that vintage had committed the country for making sure that manufacturing will contribute 25 per cent to our GDP by 2022. On one hand this is there and on the other hand, we have Make in India. The two needs to go together and therefore we have to review the NMP.Into this debate comes the industrial revolution 4.0 also, which is rapidly catching up. You like it or not some industries are bringing in robotics in a very big way. Some are partly using that and some others absolutly no impact of this because they can not afford or they do not want it. We have to have a place for all the three.So in all these — Skill India, Digital india, Make in India…there should be some coherence. So I have asked the DIPP to make that policy either relevant or if it is not adaptable, reshape it. The new policy has to relate to all these developments.

Q: How do you respond to Congree leader Rahul Gandhi’s allegation that these three years of NDA government were marked by broken promises, non-performance and betrayal?

Nirmala: On each of these words, he is grossly wrong. Where is the betrayal. We are keeping up every word mentioned in our manifesto. These are absolutely, if i can say, an absurd allegation. Who s talking about non-performance, somebody who is part of the 10-years of non-performing government which led to the whole world talking about us as a government which is in freeze. We were almost written off. On all three descriptions, either he is ill-informed or does not know what he is trying to tell us. I completely reject it.

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