New Delhi: Sending a clear signal to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to cut interest rates in view of industrial output slipping further in October, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Monday called for increasing the flow of funds in the market.
"The cost of capital and, I think, in recent months or years, is one singular factor which has contributed to the slowdown of manufacturing growth itself," Jaitley said here addressing a high-profile workshop on the government's Make in India programme.
"The credit offtake is slow, infrastructure creation becomes slower, the manufacturers find it difficult to afford costly capital, because it is going to add to each one of their costs. And, therefore, this is one area where each one of us has to be concerned about," he added.
Industry's pitch for rate cuts and economic reforms has become sharper with factory output registering a negative 4.2 percent growth during October as compared to last year, even as retail inflation eased to a historic low of 4.38 percent in November.
The RBI has maintained the benchmark repo rate (the rate at which banks borrow from it) since January this year.
The Make in India campaign was launched by Prime Minister Modi Sep 25, promising the investors, domestic and overseas, an environment conducive to turn the country into a manufacturing hub and, in turn, create job opportunities for at least 100 million youths.
The 25 sectors identified for advancing the government's Make in India programme made presentations at the day-long workshop titled "Sectoral Perspectives and Initiatives" featuring ministers, industries and state chief secretaries.
A total of 18 sessions were held on the 25 sectors, including chemicals, oil and gas, petrochemicals, capital goods, pharmaceutical, food processing, tourism, aviation, automobile, aerospace, defence production and skill development.
The sector-specific sessions at the workshop are required to prepare action plans for one and three years.
Representatives of Ford India, Maruti Suzuki, Mahindra & Mahindra, state-run enterprises, the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI)participated in the workshop.
Voicing industry sentiments, FICCI) president Jyotsna Suri said: Â“We are entrepreneurial by nature. Give us a conducive environment, a rational tax regime and capital at a reasonable cost, and just see how we unleash the lion of the Make in India programme.Â”
Rejecting the contention of economists against India adopting an export-led growth path, Jaitley said the Make in India programme is about manufacturing quality products at low costs, and is not relevant to whether these are sold in India or abroad.
"Whether Make in India is made for consumers within India or outside is not so relevant. The principle today says that consumers across the world like to purchase products which are cheaper and are of good quality. They hire services which are cheaper and good quality," the finance minister said, referring to the changes wrought by globalisation.
Referring to arbitration issues in cases involving multinationals like Vodafone, Jaitley said: Â“We have to ask ourselves why each investor is today insisting on international arbitration where the venue is not India. It is because our domestic systems have a tendency to interfere too much in the domestic or international tribunals created for the purposes of dispute resolution mechanism.Â”
Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that while foreign direct investment inflows into India rose by about a quarter in the April-October period, a number of challenges remained in making the country a global manufacturing hub.
"Still there are a number of challenges to make India a global manufacturing hub that need to be identified and there has to be an action plan to overcome this," Sitharaman said.
Â“Nothing of this scale has been attempted in the recent memory. This national workshop is aimed at getting industry and government on the same platform,Â” she added.
Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth said the workshop seeks to create a roadmap to be implemented in the short and medium term to boost manufacturing.