Sidharth Birla has taken over as the president of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) at a time when the macro-economic indicators are not showing signs of recovery and investor confidence needs a boost. With a clear focus on generating employment through manufacturing and skills, Birla tells FE’s Kirtika Suneja that the investment climate will improve through competitiveness and market access.
What is your agenda on collaborating with the government to fasten the reforms process?
Our stress is on manufacturing as it is central to growth and generating employment. We have suggestive measures for all segments. We believe that inclusiveness can’t be sustained if it is not backed by growth. Infrastructure development is required to improve competitiveness. This is what we discussed with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who said that we need to think beyond WTO and look at new trade arrangements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and increased market access. However, our concern is that despite having market access, it may not be profitable because of uncompetitiveness of infrastructure.
Is infrastructure development not held up by the slow process of environment and forest clearances?
Getting clearances is only one part of the growth story to improve the investment climate. Though the impact of environment on development has been an issue, we can’t over stress on either of the two. Changing people is not the solution but putting time limits on decisions is. We have taken up these issues at various platforms. Interestingly, the cabinet committee on investment (CCI) is now working on the ground implementation of the decisions it took and we feel that the committee should not be a feature of the government as it reflects a failure of other parts of the system. The CCI is also in the process of institutionalising some of the remedies it made to the clearances process.
On the macroeconomic front, what are the major challenges as far as growth is concerned?
We have to hold on to the fiscal deficit as it will control our spending and the way we raise revenue. Moreover, there should be an inclusive spending so that it leads