8 new horizons of growth: Highlights of Nirmala Sitharaman's press conference dated May 16, 2020
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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday introduced the fourth part of her press conference that focuses on the economic stimulus package announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday.

Before introducing her policies, Nirmala Sitharaman spoke of the first three days of stimuli for the future, as well as a dream of a Aatma Nirbhar Bharat. "We will face competitive and must be ready to face competition of the global value change. This is the Prime Minister's dream," she said.

Saying that the Prime Minister has a track record regarding reforms, Nirmala Sitharaman highlighted projects like the direct benefit transfer, goods and service tax, one nation/one market, IBC, as well as the steps taken for ease of doing business, bank reforms for public-sector banks.

The fourth part highlighted the new horizons of growth. Before getting into this, Nirmala Sitharaman said that due to the lockdown and COVID-19, it feels like a long time since the budget was presented. "When the finance bill was passed, parliament had to be discontinued due to the lockdown," she said.

For an Aatmanirbhar Bharat and Make in India, the centre said it wants new ways of doing business to make India attractive. The foundation was laid through Make in India. "Aspirational middle-class, talent pool, and rule of law makes India an attractive place to invest," the finance minister said.

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The Centre said that although clusters have been recognised, many of them are lying untilised. Using technology, through GPS mapping, we identify locations. "3,376 industries and SEZs have among them 5lakh hectares for future use. This will be part of a portal that the Centre will keep for people who want to establish a business in a particular area," she added.

Eight sectors are in the government's radar. "The sectors we will be talking about are: coal, minerals, defence productions, airspace management, airports, MRO, power distribution companies in the UTs, space, atomic energy," Nirmala Sitharaman added.

COAL

The government is bringing commercial mining in the coal sector and removing its monopoly. "As a result, more coal will be available at affordable rates. For those who produce well before deadline, there will be incentives," she said.

India has the third valuable deposit of coal that is untapped. Despite this, India imports coal. "Regulations are required when there is a shortage. We have been producing ample amount of coal. We are aware that coal isn't environmentally friendly, so we will ensure that the environment is honoured. The government will auction methane coal beds. Rs 50,000 crore will be spent by the government for creating evacuation infrastructure," the finance minister has said.

MINERAL MINING

The Centre is allocating a seamless exploration-cum-mining-cum-prodcuction regime. 500 mining blocks will be offered through this open transparent mechanism. India has lost out due to this mismatched policy. The seamless regime will help more people invest in India. "The idea is to better-facilitate the mineral sector. We want to also defining captive and non-captive mines, which means that mines can be transferred to someone else in case someone doesn't use the mines to its full potential," Nirmala Sitharaman added.

DEFENCE PRODUCTION

As part of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat and Make in India initiative, it's important to be self-reliant in critical industries like defence. It's true that the armed forces require high-end technology when it comes to weapons that need to be imported. India shall now notify - in consultation with the department of military - a list of weapons that will not be imported, but are made in India. "We will start the list this year and build the list every year," Nirmala Sitharaman said, adding that indigenisation of imported spares will be done by us. The government has provided a budget for domestic capital procurement to reduce the import bill when it comes to buying weapons from other nations.

The next step is to improve the autonomy, accountability in ordinance factorise. "We will corporatise the ordinance factors. Do not mix this with privatisation. Furthermore, FDI will increase from 49% to 74%," she added. "There will also be a time-bound procurement when it comes to defence."

CIVIL AVIATION

This is divided into three parts i.e. airspace management. "We will need to manage airspace management that will reduce flying time, reduce costs, and make best possible use of the 60 per cent airspace that we can use," she said.

Secondly, Additional investments will be made for 12 airports for better world-class facilities and customer experience. "AAI will get a downpayment of Rs 2,300 crore. The first phase of investment will also get Rs 13,000 crore," she said.

Thirdly, the idea is to make India a Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) hub. This, Nirmala Sitharaman said, is a great industry. If we make sure the MRO ecosystem is setup, it will be a major step that we want to ensure India benefits. "This won't be for only civil aircrafts, but also for defence aircrafts," she said.

Privatisation of power distribution companies in UTs

This will be in line with the tariff policies, the finance minister said. This will lead to better services to customers. Those who will indulge in load shedding will be penalised, she added.

Social infrastructure projects

India needs a ramp up in social infrastructure and the government has allotted Rs 8,100 crore through viability gap funding, the finance minister said. Usually, 20 per cent is given as viability gap funding, but in this case, the government will provide a 30 per cent viability gap funding. "Along with the government, even private partners can participate," she said.

Space technology

Hailing ISRO, the finance minister also said that the private sector has also worked on developing space-technology. "To provide a level-playing field, we will provide them assets that are available in ISRO. We want the private players to be co-travellers with us," the finance minister added.

Atomic Energy

There shall be a research reactor in PPP modes for the production of medical isotopes for cancer treatment and other diseases.

The government will establish facilities in PPP mode to use radiation technology for food preservation; for perishable crops like onions, this will be advantageous, given that it will increase its shelf life.

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