Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman spoke exclusively to BTVI’s Siddharth Zarabi after presenting her maiden Union Budget today in the Parliament.
Nirmala Sitharaman hopes the cycle of investments will kick-start the economy, points out that measures taken will address the NBFC crisis. The FM also talks about opening up of sectors like aviation, insurance intermediaries for FDI, infrastructure spending, and additional tax deduction to home-buyers in the affordable housing category.
Here is the full transcript of the interview:
Siddharth Zarabi: Thank you very much for speaking with BTVI. It is a significant day. We are getting feedback from our viewers and readers. What do you expect will be the impact of your offer to foreign players a role. Insurance is a massive sector including aviation. What do you expect after this announcement?
Nirmala Sitharaman: We have approached the Budget by laying a vision for 10 years. And, also a target in the first 5 years. And, we have made sure this is a big Budget in the sense of big picture announcements. We have laid a big picture before the country. We are also opening up sepcific sectors. And, we are very clear for sunrise industries. We thought of giving all incentives possible. We are aiming to project an India, which is not going to hesitate on reforms. We are making sure India becomes a manufacturing hub. So with creation of maintenance oand repair hub for aviation, we are making sure India becomes an attractive market.
Siddharth Zarabi: You handled key portfolios over the last 5 years. Is your belief now that sectoral caps have served their utility and perhaps belonged to a different era. Is that the underlying message?
Nirmala Sitharaman: In a way yes. We want each ministry to reach a comfort level before they take a different call. Every ministry represents the stakeholders. We are making sure that stakeholders are taken along rather than imposition of decision from top. I can see ministries and Niti Aayog coming with novel approaches. Every country is becoming inward looking. And, India is clear that it will maintain its growth story. We have to have innovative way of handling things.
Siddharth Zarabi: In the post Budget interaction, we talked about customs duty. To those who are saying that this is a protectionist move, what would be your response?
Nirmala Sitharaman: Ths is not true. We have taken the call basis two points. One is constant worry about import bill going up for importing those goods and services which are actually being produced in India. Now, if it is a question of quality - that it is not up to mark and therefore I have to import, today the situation is those procurals of manufactured products, intermediary products within India, are today competing and procuring on global standards. Every procurement today is on the basis of global tender, meeting with global quality. Even this has factored in your purchase. If Indian manufacturers can't meet those standards, they are not going to be able to procure it. So, even if I give you the custom duty protection, you cannot last unless you produce that quality. We also want the import bill to come down but I can't compel the buyers.
Siddharth Zarabi: Is this a short-term measure with eye on revenue mobilisation?
Nirmala Sitharaman: Not so much driven by revenue consideration. It is more from the point of view of the Indian industry make undersand that they pull their socks up and we are here to take care of you. But it has to be two-way.
Siddharth Zarabi: Is that what you have done for NBFC sector?
Nirmala Sitharaman: We gave a very careful consideration for NBFC sector. In fact, in the stakeholders' consultations pre-Budget, I had some of the whos who of the NBFC in the meeting. I am not taking their names. All of them were of the view that I should look at NBFC crisis through the prism. It is a multi-layered problem. If it is liquidity for some, it is governance for some others, insolvency for a third group. So, NBFC crisis has very many different strands. All of which have to be assessed. That is why, we have come with RBI providing for a window. I understand the RBI has already issued notifications with respect to it. We are giving 10% backstop arrangement. We are also making sure that banks are getting recap. The credit flow should not be a problem. There shall not be liquidity crisis. Making sure that finance bill gives in areas which are grey, gives the power to RBI to regulate both the housing and other NBFCs. We are giving the RBI the resolution powers not just regulatory.
Siddharth Zarabi: Where does the NBFC crisis stand as of today?
Nirmala Sitharaman: I wouln't say the crisis is blown over. But yet, we have now laid a clear mechanism with solution in-built for resolving the problem. But, one thing that is clear that the crisis has reached its peak. If anything, it can plateaued and not come down. I don't think the problem is going to rise. It would sort itself out with all the mechanisms we have given.
Siddharth Zarabi: SBI has taken lead in 30-member consortium around one NBFC. Were it required, do you think these banks are in a position to sign further ICS for other NBFCs which may require such rescue packages.
Nirmala Sitharaman: Now the picture is clearly emerging for NBFCs and the government. The government can stay outside and help the situation settle down. It is possible to resolve the crisis that has hit individual companies.
Siddharth Zarabi: Do you think that the situation could worse?
Nirmala Sitharaman: I hope not.
Siddharth Zarabi: People are complementing you for extra budgetary resources including full serviced government bonds in the budget estimates. Earlier, P Chidambaram said the FM's speech was unusually opaque exercise. He asked 'has there been a budget speech that does not disclose total revenue, toal expenditure, revenue deficit, additional revenue?' It goes on. How do you respond?
Nirmala Sitharaman: They have all been given. My reading would have consumed more time. The big picture is that I wanted to make sure that it is given. The message today is that the government is with the industry. But only if he cared to look into the budgetary documents, appendix to the speech, everyone of what he thinks is not been given is given there.
Siddharth Zarabi: Reflation, reform. What have you actually done in summation? Have you done a bit of both? Lot of peoole are saying where is the support for further consumption?
Nirmala Sitharaman: It is wrong to say - where are the steps for more consumption. We are putting money in the hands of people directly through DBT. There are a number of schemes. And, we have reiterated our commitment for infrastructure spending. We are making sure we are getting investments. We have eased investment situation. Will the economy not kick-start with this? Affordable housing will get the benefit of tax deduction. If you are buying an electric vehicle, you are going to get the benefit. Are these not benefit?