More than two months after the NDA government took charge, Nirmala Sitharaman, minister of state for finance, commerce and corporate affairs has firmly set her foot in these key ministries trying to clear up as many pending issues as possible.
Dejected over the fact that the Opposition did not allow the passage of the insurance bill that seeks to raise the foreign direct investment limit to 49% from the current 26%, she tells HT that this may have been done to prevent Prime Minister Narendra Modi get all the credit before his US visit.
The insurance bill is stuck once again, what would be your the next step?
I am certainly going to raise questions on the objective of the UPA on the insurance bill. It is the same bill, which was introduced by them. When the bill was ready, it was sent to the standing committee and the recommendations were incorporated. So I don’t understand their problem. It is their bill, which we thought they were comfortable with, and now you are raising objections on the same. There were rumours that they didn’t want the bill to be passed before the prime minister’s US visit as the credit would have then gone to him. I have reasons to feel that the rumours were not baseless.
On your visit to China, did you bring up the issue of Chinese goods flooding Indian markets and that we need a solution to it?
There are two parts to the whole issue. I had recently visited China and categorically told them that if you want to sell your products in the Indian market, you must come and invest in India. In this manner, they retain the market and instead of producing the goods there, manufacture them here, which in turn would help a large number of people here. The second part of the issue is related to the Indian side. If the Chinese could see what the requirements are in the domestic market and cash in on that, why can’t our own manufacturers do the same. We should not see China as a threat but take it as a healthy competition.
You have underlined the need to revisit the free trade agreements (FTAs) with other countries. What is the status?
It is an ongoing process. We are taking up the FTAs on a case-to-case basis to see how Indian manufacturers can capitalise on them. For all future FTAs, we need to carefully study them and make people aware of these agreements so that the benefits reach them.
When can we expect a decision on General Anti-Avoidance Rules (GAAR)?
We will look at the issue and will come out with a date soon.
On the Companies Act, you have held talks with various stakeholders. What changes are you planning?
We had called for a review meeting and are working on the inputs that we have received. We have classified issues under different baskets — minor, some slightly more than that and in some cases have sent notifications to Parliament. There are some slightly major issues which we are looking into.