Q What is your view on the Atma Nirbhar initiative of the government?
A I genuinely believe it is an excellent initiative but it must be construed in the right context. For CII and for me, Atma Nirbhar Bharat is a self-reliant India which is competitive and engaged with the world. Not an India which is protective or protectionist but a competitive India which engages with the world with confidence. It means building a strong foundation of India, around healthcare, education, skills, knowledge, expertise and dealing with nature to ensure sustainability.
Q What is the agenda you have set for CII during your term?
A We have done two or three variations. A few days ago, CII celebrated its 125-year annual function where the PM was the chief guest. Post the event we took cues from some of the messages and had a detailed discussion with the CII team. We drafted a broad agenda for the year. Thereafter we went to the National Council with this broad agenda which saw participation from 180 CEOs. Thereafter, we finalised the agenda. This agenda revolved around building India for a new world. Lives, livelihood and of course, growth. We laid down 10 points for the future of India. Interestingly, though I may be president for a year, the agenda which we are laying down for CII is not just for the here and now. That is important but the agenda for the medium and long-term perspective is for building India. Much of the 10-point agenda is not just for the here and now.
Q Can the government spend its way out of the current crisis?
A We are not a reserve currency. We need to do what it takes in some areas. We then have to prioritise our spending on what is important. The decision to spend can be prioritised in three categories; the first is urgent and important; the second should be only important and the third only urgent. Protecting lives and livelihood is urgent and important. Prioritising healthcare and building a good healthcare system is urgent and important. Education and mother nature are important. Trying to protect industries which are not competitive and not future-ready is urgent but not important. It is for the consumer to decide. If a consumer decides to buy goods digitally and not go to malls, it may affect the viability of the mall business. The government has to think very hard if it wants to protect malls or spend more on healthcare. India spending 1.3 per cent of its GDP on healthcare is unacceptable. We have to reprioritise our choices and get it right. Healthcare is more important. Germany has done much better than other countries because it had invested heavily in building a good healthcare system. We have to build a good healthcare system. Certain industries in the post-COVID world will have to change.
What is your view on the Atma Nirbhar initiative of the government?