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We were creating 12 million jobs per annum earlier, but are down to just 2 now. India is a young country, and we cannot afford that. So the government’s top priority has to be to encourage manufacturing. That means we have to make it easier to do business. Far too many approvals are required today, from both the Centre and the states. Simplification has to be the name of the game. You can’t even start a 100-man factory easily. Why should people even bother to set up manufacturing in such a situation?
Modi has come on the plank of governance, so if he finds a corrupt minister or official, he must sack him. Once you do that, you can take decisions since no one can suspect your bona fides.
I think taxation is a very important part of this simplification. People are just not interested in coming to India because the tax administration sucks – your rates may be reasonable, but no one wants to get stuck in tax litigation. This has to be fixed.
Energy security is vital since around 45% of our import bill comprises just oil. This will rise to around 70% in 20 years if nothing is done. This means fixing prices of various petroleum products, from diesel to natural gas. It is equally important to get the private sector in for coal exploration. There are various issues around the next NELP round which are equally critical from the point of view of energy security as well as getting investments on the ground. All the big boys are avoiding India and going to Myanmar and Vietnam.
In various areas where there are disputes with the government — several PPP projects, for instance — there should be a quick settlement so that investors can get on with their business. If the process of settlement is transparent, where is the question of anyone pointing fingers?
(As told to Sunil Jain)
(The author is the chairman of HDFC)