Suresh Prabhu said on Sunday that his priorities as the new commerce and industry minister will include backing measures to generate more jobs, particularly in the manufacturing sector, helping India attract more Foreign Direct Investments (FDI), and increasing India’s share in global exports.
Mr. Prabhu, who had offered to resign as the Railways Minister last month following two train derailments in four days, will have his task cut out in his new assignment — especially to ensure greater job creation and investments under the NDA government’s flagship ‘Make In India’ (MII) initiative to boost local manufacturing.
‘Will increase share’
He told reporters that measures would be taken to increase the share of manufacturing in India’s GDP and in turn, to boost the GDP as well. “We will accelerate the pace of MII, Startup India and Ease of Doing Business initiatives. We will take measures to generate more employment in manufacturing and other economic activities,” he said. A Parliamentary panel had recently sought an assessment on how the MII initiative had helped the country’s small- and medium-sized firms, and added that dedicated steps should be taken to ensure that FDI helps such firms. The panel had also sought details on whether the MII initiative has seized the opportunity of India’s demographic dividend.
On exports, Mr. Prabhu said, “We will increase the share of exports in India’s GDP and India’s share in global exports. We will look for new markets, in addition to finding niche areas in developed country markets,” he said. He said steps would be taken to ensure greater FDI inflow. Incidentally, the government is considering proposals to relax norms in sectors such as retail, construction and print media.
In December, Mr. Prabhu will be representing India at the World Trade Organisation’s Ministerial Conference (or MC – the WTO’s highest decision-making body) at Buenos Aires, Argentina. His appointment comes at a time when India and China have jointly submitted a proposal to the WTO demanding that developed nations should eliminate their “trade-distorting” farm subsidies. Besides, he will have to ensure broad support for India’s proposal at the WTO for an agreement on Trade Facilitation in Services, to boost global services trade by eliminating barriers including those curbing the movement of professionals and skilled workers across borders for short-term work.
However, Mr. Prabhu is no stranger to international trade-related issues as he was the Indian Sherpa to the G-20. Mr. Prabhu will also have to provide leadership to ensure that a ‘future-ready’ Industrial Policy is brought out in October — as assured by the commerce and industry ministry last month.
His experience as Railways Minister will come in handy as the commerce department is slated to be the nodal body at the central level for transport-related issues across modes with a view to boost India’s foreign trade.