The draft e-commerce policy is under criticism from multiple stakeholders. Niti Aayog chief executive Amitabh Kant said the government should not look at micro issues of discounts and pricing and instead focus on attracting investments and creating jobs in the sector. In an interview with ET, Kant shared views on various issues the think tank is engaged with.
What is your view on the draft e-commerce policy?
India needs a progressive and forward-looking e-commerce policy which will promote startups, investment and growth, and create new jobs, and not one which will impact its current momentum. The e-commerce sector tripled in size over the last four years and provides employment to over 1 lakh people, mainly in tier II and III cities and in new sectors such as logistics. Besides, it is beneficial for all. Consumers gain through lower prices and time and cost savings. Businesses lower their costs through lower distribution and marketing costs as well as the growth of new sectors such as logistics. Overall, e-commerce has the potential to generate a vast number of new jobs in the economy.
I do not think we should comment on a draft document. However, in general, my view is that we should have a policy framework which will encourage investments in the e-commerce sector and the government should not get into the market by looking at micro issues of discounts and pricing. Secondly, we should not do anything which will impact FDI inflows in the sector. Thirdly, the policy should not discourage international capital flows through electronic means and cross-border e-commerce which helps Indian firms access a larger pool of global consumers. Fourthly, we should have only one agency and not a multiplicity of ministries or agencies to deal with e-commerce. Government should, however, ensure consumer protection. The Prime Minister had taken review of all infrastructure sectors recently. Tell us about the macro picture that has emerged from this review.
Last four years have seen unprecedented work in many infrastructure sectors, particularly in construction of highways, rural roads, airports, rural housing and new and renewable energy. There is a 47% increase in roads constructed, with 27 km per day speed now as compared to just 11 km per day four years back. Similarly, 88% of all habitations in India are now connected by a road under PMGSY (Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana). India’s renewable energy capacity has been doubled in the last four years, from 35.5 GW to 70 GW.Which are the focus sectors of the government going forward?
Gram Swaraj Abhiyan is a great example of saturating villages under which seven government schemes are being implemented in 64,000 villages, delivering benefits at the doorstep. Under the aspirational district programme, the objective is to radically transform these districts in socio-economic indicators. In the shipping industry, we are targeting to make many of our major ports as international transhipment hubs and increase the share of coastal shipping in our internal cargo movement as well as bring the efficiency of our ports to the level of global benchmarks. India has a huge mineral potential. A huge push is now being made to expedite the remaining exploration of minerals in India, as well as enhancing mining of existing and new mineral blocks.Has Air India been a setback to strategic disinvestment? What is the status of sale of loss-making companies?
This government rebooted the strategic disinvestment policy after a long hiatus of 12 years and is totally committed to exit from non-strategic CPSEs (central public-sector enterprises). On Niti Aayog’s recommendations of over 45 CPSEs, 24 have been approved for in-principle strategic disinvestment by the government. Air India is just one of those. The Air India process has provided many lessons which will enable us to finetune processes to enable strategic disinvestment. The government must get the right value and the process has to be transparent and competitive. On lossmaking CPSEs, the government has taken the bold step of closing down 19 chronically sick CPSEs. Their assets, including human capital, is being unlocked and put to productive use.Has the Aayog expressed its view on the impact of higher minimum support price, considering it will impact India’s exports and lead to dumping of crops from international markets?
The historic decision to keep MSP for all unannounced crops at least at one-and-a-half times their production cost aims towards doubling the income of our farmers. The budget 2018-19 proposed two types of changes in MSP — one, a new basis for fixing MSP and two, the implementation of MSP to be ensured for MSP-notified crops. For the first time, we are making MSP inclusive. The agriculture ministry is finalising a comprehensive plan to target at least 40% of marketable surplus of these crops. This will ensure remunerative price to all the farmers and will be a gamechanger in achieving higher income to farmers. The government is also seized of the global commodity production and price situations and will take all corrective measures to protect domestic producers.The Niti Aayog is likely to release a policy on shared connectivity. What is your view on shared mobility in the country and how should we pursue it?
India imports more than 80% of its petroleum, spending $156 billion annually. We need to radically reduce this. India is also deeply committed to INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) targets of the Paris pact to reduce 35% of its CO2 emission from the 2005 level by 2030, where shared mobility will play a huge role by reducing number of miles travelled.