India Inc needs to be honest when it meets the PM
Given how downbeat industry is—a Crisil survey of 170 private firms says India Inc wants to cut FY13 investments by 35%—it’s not surprising Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wants to meet industry captains next week. What’s not clear is what India Inc hopes to get out of the meeting. In the past, most such occasions have been more of photo-ops with the usual platitudes. The PM will ask industry to do its bit to help in this hour of crisis and industry will assure the PM of its support; captains of industry will come out of the meeting saying they were candid with the PM and he assured them their grievances would be looked into … If that sounds like a re-run of an old movie, it’s because it is.
India Inc needs to tell the PMO the meeting needs to be a focused one, with the problems listed before and the PM coming up with credible answers to most of them. We now know, a few years after this happened, that the oil ministry has been auctioning oil/gas blocks without even getting clearances from the army/navy/DRDO. We know that road projects are auctioned without any permissions from the relevant state authorities for clearing forests or utilities along the way. So what is the government’s solution for something like this? If it is—and the PMO is working on one such proposal—that the government will get projects cleared before bidding them out, what is the guarantee this will work? The fact that the Coal India board has failed to fulfil the PMO’s direction on signing FSAs for so many months suggests enforcing the PMO’s writ is going to be an uphill task. Similarly, what is the PM going to do to ensure it doesn’t take 10 years to do something as simple as demerging extra land from a VSNL? Or will he explain what he plans to do since the EGoM has said it can’t take a decision on what to charge telcos for ‘extra’ spectrum until the Presidential Reference is dealt with by the Supreme Court. Or when will he hike diesel prices since RBI won’t cut rates before that … The short point is that with the basic problem being the government not functioning, it’s not clear what the meeting hopes to achieve.