Do excite us, but also budget some care. Here are FG’s updated recommendations. The focus has to be on Investment, Jobs and a New Deal. India needs to take off to a new, rousing start through mega investments and novel initiatives. First off, industry needs some straight-talking. Industry does not, and should not, need excise crutches. It has earned very well for over a decade and needs to invest from its reserves. The govt. cannot be expected to just be a downside risk mitigator (while being totally ignored during the upsides). In fact industry has always maintained that it does well ‘despite’ the govt. Industry needs to get back to its entrepreneurship mode - it is currently in a risk-averse mode. Industry should definitely get a flexible Labour Policy, which should work both ways – meaning that retrenchment should be costly for industry. The govt. should help speed up the National Investment & Manufacturing Zones (NIMZs). Beyond this, industry should not need any handholding, even for land acquisiition – and therefore, as rightly objected to by most Parties, there should be no dilution to the original Bill. Funds need to come in aplenty for infrastructure investment. We need to get people out of gold and property (and poperty rates anyway need to come down – otherwise there may well be a crash). We need to facilitate a new IPO boom – but in ‘real’ business.
Jobs are critical for our youth, especially our unemployed graduates. We need a Youth Employment Policy, riding alongside a stringent Retirement Policy (preferably at 58, max. 60 years). We owe this to our youth. It’s time for ITIs across the nation to be affiliated with corporates. In fact the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Policy should be amended to incorporate investments in skill-development through ITIs. Corporates should be given a choice to either spend on CSR or invest their resources on ITIs. FG also proposes a new PPP paradigm based on the PM’s ‘Rurban’ vision. Let a hundred private/public sector companies be allowed to ‘adopt’a hundred blocks (in a hundred different districts), under a 3 year mandate - to deliver agreed civic amenities and facilities, as part of their CSR spend. They should be allowed certain ‘branding’ benefits.
It’s time for a New Deal. It is the opportune season for a Second Green Revolution (GR II) – for an Agriculture-based Farm to Retail Policy. Barring middlemen, this should be welcomed by all – from farmers to industrialists…to even politicians. It provides us the comfort of Food Security and simultaneously would take us up the (Food) value chain – something that our IT Industry has been trying in its field for some time now. With a large and decently robust economy, with the largest arable land worldwide, and with farming still in our genes, it is time for this new revolution. The ‘aam farmer’ needs to be kept in central focus, in terms of helping to better his productivity, offering him a remunerative price and spot payments and reducing his wastage. The infrastructure – Transportation, Distribution, Warehousing, Cold Storage and Power - for this Agro & Food Processing Industry needs to be set up by either the State (as in highways) or through PPP or even offered as a private model. Most importantly, this Industry and Policy will lead to a flourishing Intra- and Inter-State Commerce – with its benefits for a better economic (and in turn social) integration of the country. The food chain has to be opened up – horizontally, vertically and geographically. Various outdated Acts need to be modified/scrapped, to aid in the stocking and movement of food and food products seamlessly across the nation. Let a thousand cold chains bloom across the country, along with a hundred food-processing industries. This will even help bring in significant FDI as well as provide a base for value-added (produce) export. There is a need to think big for this project, and galvanise top domestic players from across sectors, to partner with specialised foreign companies. It is a huge long-term play – and we will play it better than we do manufacturing. Maybe it’s a DNA thing.
The ‘care’ has to be for the urban poor and the lower middle class, by means of an an urban version of MNREGA and an Urban Livelihood Improvement Act. The poor should be given MNREGA benefits for setting up EWS Housing and Public Toilets in the 5,000 plus cities and towns of India. The lower middle class (perhaps the only ‘class’ that has become poorer over the last few years) should be offered fuel/LPG/healthcare vouchers worth Rs 5,000 per family per month, for 2 years. The vulnerable urban class can be fairly easily identified, accessed and monitored.
Going forward, a quarterly report on status versus Budget should be mandatory – on finances, operations, outcomes and new initiatives. For this year, the first report should be out by July end.
What is the status/outcome of last year’s initiatives/outlays, on:
Public Sector banks divestment, consolidation, lending norms & NPA reduction
Low cost housing
Investment in ports
Multiple initiatives for the North East
How many of the thousand on-going PPP projects are on track?