Commerce minister says many labour-intensive sectors showing good traction, more reforms coming
July’s exports are likely to reach about $33 billion, keeping India on track to cross the $400 billion mark in outbound trade for the first time this year, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said on Saturday. Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows were also expected to hit a fresh record in 2021-22, he added.
Dismissing investor concerns about land acquisition and labour laws, the minister asserted that land, labour and capital were no longer a hindrance for investing in India, and a lot more reforms were in the pipeline at the Central government level as well as in States administered by the Bharatiya Janata Party.
“Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, our FDI inflows were the highest ever last year when other countries saw investments falling. This year, we are confident of continuing the seven-year streak of new record highs in FDI,” Mr. Goyal said.
“Exports are looking up and we had a record $95 billion of exports in the first quarter. This has energised us to set a target of $400 billion for 2021-22 and I am confident we can achieve that. Even in July, till July 21, exports are above $22 billion and well poised to cross $32-33 billion by the end of the month,” he said at a CII-Horasis India meeting.
The government said exports had risen 45% to hit $22.48 billion by the third week of July, 25.4% higher than the pre-COVID level. Engineering goods exports were up 33.7% so far in July, 51.2% above July 2019 levels.
“We are now in the top-10 list of agri-produce exporters… and many sectors which are labour-intensive are showing good traction,” Mr. Goyal, who also handles the Textiles, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution ministries, said.
Land, labour ‘old issues’
Responding to queries about pending reforms in land acquisition and labour laws, Mr. Goyal said: “Sometimes, we often just go about the same complaint about an issue which may not necessarily be so on the ground. I have been a minister for seven years and am yet to meet an industrialist who came to me and said they are not investing in India because of labour laws.
The Centre had identified lakhs of acres of land for investors to tap, but some business in a particular area may have faced resistance because of political motivations or inability to market the project.
“Today, land, labour and capital — with so many venture capitalists and other private investors, banks much stronger than ever before, having cleaned up most of their balance-sheets — are issues which were discussed 10 or five years ago. Today, if anybody has a problem, I am always there and my doors are open,” he said.
On concerns about government agencies harassing businesses, the minister said: “Agencies are not troubling, it’s the legacy issues which are troubling. Unfortunately, some actions of the past are causing the stress. Our effort is to move the nation to a honest and very transparent way of working — nobody in the future should have to go through the kind of business environment that some of us suffered from in the past”;
Taking note of 30 years of the Indian economy’s liberalisation, Mr. Goyal said he had met Manmohan Singh, ‘the architect of the original reform package’ a couple of weeks ago and lauded late Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao who had allowed his Finance Minister to carry out the reforms.
“Of course, at that time, reform was forced upon us. We had no choice but to open up given the precarious position of the economy. PM Narendra Modi, over the last seven years, has consistently been working to bring about structural changes not out of any compulsion, but from a deep conviction that India’s time has come,” he asserted.
“I am not being astrological but I really believe that the world’s destiny is going to be shaped by a lot of the decisions that all of you and we take in India. India is going be the pole around which the world economy will need to grow and expand,” he concluded.