The CII Annual General Meeting 2018, a two-day conference with the theme of “Building a Better India Together: Responsible, Inclusive and Ahead” came to a successful close on the evening of 9 April 2018. The vibrant conference was a meeting place for some of the brightest minds in the country including ministers, top government officials, industry leaders, and academics, among others, who shared meaningful insights on diverse subjects, all concerning the overall development of the country.
The theme of the session was based on the current economic scene and national priorities. Multiple sessions included macroeconomic issues such as fiscal policy and the financial sector, trade policies, urban and rural development, smart technologies, ease of doing business, and environmental reforms as well as socio-economic issues such as delivering better justice and improving governance, among many others.
The eminent speakers highlighted several challenges that need to be overcome by the Indian economy for it to become an economic superpower and a global leader in the future. The speakers also suggested possible ways of dealing with such challenges while charting a future growth path for the country.
Hon’ble Finance Minister Arun Jaitley addressing the Annual Meeting through a video message stated, “An aspirational India, an impatient India, has accepted the idea of reforms.” He observed that reforms such as GST, Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code and new income tax regulations are contributing to a better investment climate in India.
Then President, CII, Ms Shobana Kamineni outlined a 5-point agenda in the inaugural session to build a better India. She underlined the importance of companies doing business ethically and transparently, scaling up competitiveness, and R&D and innovation as also CSR. She also urged industry, including overseas industry, to commence the investment cycle and invest in the future of the country.
Requesting the Government to ensure stable policies and widen the tax base, Ms Kamineni also suggested faster movement on labour regulations and efficient allocation of resources, greater women participation and widening of the tax base etc.
Mr. Rakesh Bharti Mittal, then President Designate, CII, stated that as India regains its status of fastest growing largest economy, the role of CII in ensuring Industry’s growth has become all the more vital. Mr Uday Kotak, then Vice President, CII, spoke about trends shaping the economy and the financial sector, including Aadhar and formalisation of household savings.
The changing global environment, with new definitions of globalisation and emerging global trends, would have far reaching implications for global trade. Mr. Suresh Prabhu, Hon’ble Minister of Commerce and Industry and Civil Aviation, mentioned that it is only a matter of time that India becomes a $5 trillion economy. He emphasised the need for India to take advantage of globalization in a rapidly changing environment. He also emphasised that for India to become a $5 trillion economy, manufacturing must increase and industry’s role in collaborating with ministries on regulatory issues is imperative.
Speaking at a special session, Hon’ble Minister of Defense, Smt Nirmala Sitharaman, emphasised the need for indigenisation of defence equipment. She stated that the process of procurement of defence equipment was being streamlined and simplified and that the Government has changed its approach to allow greater private sector participation in the process, with a focus on technology.
A stimulating session on “Building a Better India through Urban Development” had Mr Hardeep Singh Puri, Hon’ble Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development, stress the importance of empowering urban local bodies and including them in the planning and development of urbanization.
Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Hon’ble Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports, addressed an invigorating session on “The Business of Sports – Impediments and Enablers”. Emphasising a focussed approach for the development of the sports sector, he launched Sports.com Association, a not-for-profit apex industry body promoted by CII for manufacturers of sports goods and service providers to the sports sector. Noted actor Rahul Bose, also a Rugby player, attracted much attention at the session.
On the issue of macroeconomic management, analytical sessions emphasised the requirement for a rational fiscal policy. Dr. Rajiv Kumar, Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog, stressed on the need for industry to take a proactive role in facilitating such a policy. Panellists also called for greater efficiency in public spending, controlling revenue and fiscal deficits and fiscal consolidation.
Currently, India ranks 131 out of 188 countries in the Human Development Index (HDI). Expressing concern about rural areas that suffer from lack of nutrition, health and education facilities, Mr Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog, stated that there was a need to radically transform the backward districts for bringing about significant changes in India’s position in the HDI.
Speaking about the financial sector, many emphasised its role as key for lifting the country’s growth rate beyond the 8% mark. It was pointed out that there was space for more to be done, especially in terms of cleaning the system and absorbing bad loans.
Ease of Doing Business was outlined as a top priority of the Government. Mr. Ramesh Abhishek, Secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) highlighted that as many as 14,000 reforms have been undertaken to ensure procedures are streamlined. A shift towards adopting online systems can be observed among states.
Mr. Subhash Chandra Garg, Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, added that manufacturing, new economy sectors and start-ups, businesses in the infrastructure space and the small and medium sector would be the four main pillars for catapulting India as a US$10 trillion economy by 2030.
Civil Aviation Secretary, Mr Rajiv Nayan Choubey, spoke about the many opportunities opening in India’s air space including 50 new airports being opened under the UDAN scheme.
Technology disruption and its impact on employment were recurring themes in the conference. CII launched the CII-Tata Communications Centre for Digital Transformation which will work to spur the adoption of mobile, cloud technologies, and IoT and champion new talent to drive innovation forward. Mr. Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General CII, stated, “Digital transformation enables an organisation to better compete in a constantly changing economic landscape as technology evolves. Adoption of Digital Transformation is not an option but a necessity for Indian corporates.”
Issues of sustainability were also an important theme in the conference. The role of industry in driving and encouraging sustainable solutions for both large as well as small and medium enterprises was emphasised. Dr. Prem C Jain, Chairman, CII India Green Building Council (IGBC) mentioned that India has the second largest green building footprint in the world after USA. IGBC aspires to become the global leader by facilitating 10 billion square feet of green building footprint by 2022. The session witnessed the launch of the CII Electric Vehicle Mission to bring together stakeholders for developing policy and creating manufacturing facilities.
While addressing the session on “Delivering Better Governance: How do we stop corruption”, Mr. K V Chowdary, Chief Vigilance Commissioner of India, highlighted several issues such as discretion in implementation of rules, absence of Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs) at institutional level etc. as responsible for the prevalent level of corruption in the country. He further added that while the Government is taking the necessary steps to address the issues, it was important to develop a comprehensive Secure Whistle-blower Mechanism and involve people and increase awareness among them about the intricacies of corruption.
Several speakers from the world of art and heritage also shared their insights at a thought provoking session on “Building India through Art and History” where the need for promoting the art and the creative industry was emphasised as these play an important role in a nation’s overall development and is also a major source of livelihood for many.
An engaging session was held on delivering better justice where distinguished jurist Mr Fali Nariman stressed that single appeal should become the norm instead of layers of appeals currently allowed by the hierarchical structure of the court. He also emphasised the need for a robust judging system and suggested an increase in the number of judges.
The importance of industry in India’s growth journey is critical and CII remains committed to building a better India and is ready to action its agenda in the year 2018-19.