October 29, 2018

Speaking at US-India Strategic Partnership Forum, in New Delhi

…biggest change that Prime Minister Modi has been able to bring to India has been the mindset change; the nation worked in a particular mindset for several years. That mindset had several dimensions, which have changed in the last four years. One mindset that many Indians will quickly catch on, may not resonate so much with the Americans here, but the Indians will certainly understand the two words – ‘chaltahai.’ It means we can, everything goes on.

I remember, when I took charge of the railways and I was my usual self, a little tough on the team for performance. They said sir, but you are forgetting that every single day, whether you are Minister or you are not Minister, whether we are in management or we are not in management, 22,000 trains start and end every day. Now, that’s the mindset that used to prevail once upon a time.

On a similar wheel, there were many other mindsets, angles, which we see have changed – one is you can’t get things done without the blessings of or political patronage or influence,and very often extraneous considerations. I think that’s another mindset change that has had a huge impact, the kind of transparency and integrity levels we believe we have been able to bring at a leadership of the nation. In many cases, also at the stages and at several levels. Now it’s possible it’s not yet percolated to the last man, maybe a constable or maybe a ward officer in some local office, but I still believe that for business, by and large, the mindset change on transparency and integrity, the way natural resources, for example, are given out by the country.

Post the coal mine auctions, I dare say nobody will ever have the audacity or guts to ever give out the nation’s natural resources free of charge or without due process. Now, that’s a great relief, I mean after so many companies have suffered on investments made on the back of government licenses or on the back of government allocations, which subsequently got turned down by judicial processes.

And I can keep giving you several instances where the mindset of the nation has changed. Importance of time – I think projects having a time or cost over-run were the order of the day. Very few people realize, the kind of focus that this Prime Minister and his team have put on trying to expedite things and get things done on time. A simple change that happened in the Railway Ministry, the separate budget of the railway being done away with,merged with the main budget.

It’s not just that we have stopped one extra budget and we have merged it, it’s a huge mindset change, because every Railway Minister was focused on how many new trains, how many new tracks, how many new projects he can announce for political capital irrespective of the fact that for the next 40 years that project will never see the light of the day.

I mean I still have a project in the railways, which started in 1974 and is not even 30% complete. We stopped all of that. Today, a project is announced when it’s a dire necessity for safety, when it has a return on investment that we will put into it, where it’s related to passenger comfort, passenger amenities which will have an impact on the long-term sustainability of railway operations. And yes, there will still be 10% projects which will be for political expediency but not of the kind in the past where it was just an announcement made to probably get some votes. But here, political expediency is where it is going to connect the remote backward area, which has not yet seen development for 7 decades post-independence, where we are trying to connect them to the national mainstream.

So, we are looking at eastern India, we are looking at the states in the north east where we believe we do need to have investments, which don’t give us a return on investment in terms of economics, but it gives us huge geopolitical advantage, which gives us a more balanced equitable growth in the country.

And I can keep going on and on, but truly the biggest change that this government brought in is the change in the thinking of the nation, the change in thinking of businesses. I mean, to add to that, there was a point of time where people who had large loans from banks – 10,000/20,000/50,000 crores – always believe that now it’s no more our responsibility to pay the banks back. And Sanjay, you are very well aware of that. I am not saying you participated, I am just saying you are aware of that. Well, you may have invested in many of these companies also, and we both have common friends.

But the fact is now everybody is put on notice that you are bound to pay back a loan if you take a loan. It may cause us a short-term disconnect in terms of very few people coming to take a loan in the first instance in the last few months, because they have to adjust, as the honourable Finance Minister rightly says, there is an adjustment process going on to the new normal and that new normal is that integrity will pay, transparency will rule the roost; when you borrow money you have got to pay it back; when you deal with government, deal honestly; no shortcuts accepted anymore. There will be equal opportunity for everybody to do business. There won’t be any preferential treatment for one or the other.

Certainly, within that we may have a certain focus towards our Make in India programme, but I think that’s a pretty much acceptable thing, which is good for everybody. America is pulling back businesses to America. In fact, we have probably not gone as far ahead as we should in that respect, pulling back business to the Make in India programme. I think we need to do a lot more than the kind of effort we have done so far. Since you asked me where we think we could have done much more.

So, all in all, it’s probably a great time to do business with India. We have 1.2 billion people aspiring for a better quality of life. You cannot get this kind of a large market anywhere else in the world. Projects today in India are done to scale, so I am starting my signalling of the railways. It’s going to be a signalling of 121,000 kms of rail lines, which are going to go in for a new modern signalling system. Unfortunately, America doesn’t have anything to offer on that, but Europe or Japan, or Russia, these companies are going to benefit from that.

Electrification – we are going in for 100% electrification of the railways. Sadly, America is only 2%, maybe now we should look at offering our electrification services to America. But once you set your mind to addressing the challenge of climate change, maybe we can see something happening there. And Indian railways will be the first large railway in the world, of the size that we have, which will be 100% electric, and very soon I am coming out with contracts to be tendered out where we are going to buy 20 GW of solar power. The railways is going to buy. Made in India solar power equipment, 20 GW, which will make Indian railways the world’s first railway, in fact any size, which will be a net zero emitter of carbon emissions.

That’s the commitment India has to climate change. So, in some sense, we truly have a leadership which is working on a sustainable future, not only for India but for the world. We have a leader who is engaging across the world with world leaders to collectively get more action on the ground against terrorism, against money laundering, against the problems of climate change. And I think India and the US have this great opportunity to further speed up our engagement, expand our work together.

John has put the context of a 2% growth to the Indian economy, 1% to the American economy; I think it’s a very unfair calculation. The American economy is what? $10-12 trillion? $14 trillion! We are $2 trillion. So he is looking at a $ 140 billion add-on to the American side, and only a 2% on $2 trillion, whatever the math is, $40 billion on Indian side. Extremely disappointing John, I always thought you were a friend of India.

So, I think that context also this team can help me to change. We are looking at a 140 trillion add-on to the American economy, at least add on a 139 trillion to the Indian economy.

Thank you.


  1. One of the questions I have on reforms is you know, are you blindsiding the private sector who, by the way, from a foreign investor point of view, this is music to our ears. I can just tell you honestly, this is on the record, this is music to our ears, moving away from crony capitalism, moving 180 degrees away, having rule of law, having everything, the e-auction we all understand that. But I think you have to carry the private sector along, did you guys blindside them, did you guys think that they will just fall in line or do you think you have lost a part of the momentum, because…. Or maybe you haven’t, I don’t know but I don’t know what’s your assessment about the private sector confidence in this journey that you started with a bang?

A: Very good question, and well, most of us in this government come from the private sector. Mr Arun Jaitley has been a very leading legal luminary who may have represented many companies, both public sector and private sector. I have been in the private sector all my life, both as an entrepreneur running industry, whether as an investment banker. So, certainly, nobody in this… and Prime Minister Modi’sown track record in Gujarat attracted some of the best names both in India and internationally to the state of Gujarat. So there is absolutely no question of not being fair to the private sector, but at the same time, we cannot be unfairly providing an extra benefit to the private sector, because that’s exactly the rules of the game that we want to change.

We want to make it an equal opportunity for everybody, and to my mind, for example, we have launched Ayushman Bharat, that’s the NaMo Care, if one wants to compare. And in that we are appealing to private sector hospitals to come into the free healthcare facility for all in India programme, where we are going to give free healthcare to 500 billion Indians. Now, we have about 51,000 hospitals onboardedalready, I think it opens up an opportunity for at least another 100,000 hospitals, Amitabh may have a more precise number. But I don’t see less than 200-300,000 hospitals serving 500 million people, right?

But where we go wrong and where I think the private sector often disappoints us is trying to short-change the system. So, sadly, we find that if we engage more with the insurance companies, let’s say, the private sector, they don’t settle claims. They don’t settle claims in time. If their claim to premium ratio exceeds a certain amount, they almost stop paying up claims, because they have to report their profits. It’s like a large accounting firm, I won’t take the name, lest anybody in this room gets offended, was given a contract to audit a particular company. And I am the person who had given that contract, right? And they have their hours that we will spend so many hours, so many rupees per hour, then they do the estimate and take the contract.

And then during the course of the contract if the work exceeds the number of hours, unless you agree to pay that additional amount, they will cut down the scope of work that they will do. I think that’s patently wrong. If you have taken a contract, you have to live up to that contract, irrespective of profit or loss. When government takes a contract, they have to fulfil that contract, irrespective of profit or loss, right?

That’s where I think private sector will also have to be more forthcoming, either you bid correctly in the first instance. If you are not able to bid correctly, then you pay the consequences, maybe you can rightsize it the next time around. But you can’t have only a focus on profit and in that start affecting the outcomes of the programmes, and which is where then we land up actually at sometimes having to differentiate with the private sector. Because we find that the private sector probably is too focused on profit sometimes and doesn’t fulfil the mission that we set out for them. So, either you cost correctly in the first instance or you fulfil your commitment irrespective of profit or loss. Other than that for us, every sector is equally important, we are going to allow equal bidding for everybody.

I will tell you another example, insurance – there was so much pressure everywhere that we should increase the limits of insurance investment. We increased that limit to 49%. Give me the information, how many people actually brought in fresh capital into the insurance companies.

  1. Taking one from there, I still want to stay with ….reforms before we get to more the interesting part like politics and all that. So, if you have to look at 7.5% growth, which I think is, now your government has done a great job in terms of tax collections, administration, digitization, so let’s leave that aside. I think it’s a great achievement to get to the 10 to 12% growth rate. I think we all believe that there have to be some serious structure reforms. So, do you have an idea of what you would do in the next 5 and a half years on some real structured reforms? I think firstly do you agree, you need deeper structured reforms than what have been done, and second, if that was the case what would you do towards those, as non-economists, Dr Arvind Pahalwe is an economist here, he can probably say a little bit, but as it pertains to land reforms, labour reforms, banking reforms, I wanted to comment on it right away, but generally, how much is your belief in deep structured reforms you have a step of ingenuity….?

A: See, first of all the definition of reform that you have and that we have is completely disconnected. In your opinion, reform is just to open up your whole economy, let everybody come in, that for you is reform. You give the ability to acquire anybody’s land at low prices, for you that is reform. You give ability for hire and fire and your satisfied and that’s reform. Why could Arcelor Mittal not close their plant in Italy or France or wherever it was, why could ….not close their plant in UK. So I think your concept of reforms needs to be revisited.

Why is America closing its doors to everything almost? Is aborting the fight against climate change your idea of reform? So, I think it’s a very parochial thinking that just open everything up for us and that is reform, this country is good to invest. I think everything needs to be calibrated. A hire and fire policy in a country like India won’t work, because we have surplus labour. Every company will start firing everybody who is working for them beyond a certain salary level, take new people in the garb of keeping cost down and there will be no stability in the employment market.

Land reform – I think we have already reformed land extremely well, because you can’t take away land of the poor, farmers of the poor, the rural people at throwaway prices, which was happening for so many years. I think we should give them a fair price for their land. Frankly, you talk about land and labour reform every time, in my four and a half years, not one investor has come and told me that he is not investing in India because of land or labour problems, not one investor. In fact, frankly, there are no labour problems happening now in India.

Q: No, I didn’t mean to say from investor point of view, just from local competitiveness to get manufacturing going away, should we export competitiveness. I am just talking about bottlenecks as it pertains to land and labour for the Indian business?

A: Tell me specifically land, what more reform is required, we have a full robust mechanism. We insist on a social impact assessment, which I think all of you will agree. Suppose, your home was being taken over sir, and you are just told that now tomorrow get out of your home. It’s being requisitioned by the US government, how will you feel about it?

So, you would like a due process to be held. And those poor people have an equal right that you and I have on our homes. They have a right to be rehabilitated properly. They have a right to get a fair compensation. Just because I want to set up a solar park, I can’t just throw away everybody out for peanuts and say I am going to set up a solar park. My eyes just went to Sumant Sinha, so I thought I will take that example.

My point is, reform, this government is open to reform all the time. We are not a closed government. We are all the time inviting new ideas. I have talked to you so many times, but give us ideas which are fair. It should be a win-win for both. Why don’t you all talk about reforming the American visa system? I have often said on many forums at the cost of reputation, and those who have heard it before, please pardon me. But every nation has a certain surplus, and you want to export themselves. The Americans or the Europeans have surplus capital, you want investment opportunities for that capital. You want to set up factories in India or you want to bring your technologies or innovations to India, great, we welcome it.

We want to engage with the best in the world. I am sending up a first pilot project of a high-speed train, but that’s just the first. I want to do 10,000 kms after that. I am going in for signalling as I said, the whole railways will have a new signalling system. In the next six months, I will have CCTV cameras in 6000 stations. I have 707 stations which offer free Wi-Fi, and the fastest Wi-Fi, faster than Mukesh’sJioWi-Fi.

John, please note that. And I dare say, I will invite you to the New Delhi railway station and we can test it out tomorrow morning. But, no offence meant, I think he’s done a fantastic job in terms of making India the largest consumer of data in the world today, in a remarkable system that has been set up. But what I am just trying to say is it’s a huge opportunity that India offers, right? So, we invite all of you to come into that.

But what is India’s surplus? India’s surplus is skilled manpower, India’s surplus is our people who have been educated, who can provide software skills to your country or other countries. But you are stopping that, so you want us to reform and open our economy and you want to close your economy, I think that’s an extremely unfair proposition that is often made. And I would urge the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum to talk equally vehemently, if you can, in Washington.

Q: I think they can. I think the good thing about our own USIS is that I think they can, you have a good amount of dialogue with the senators, I think that’s a good thing. So thanks for that, and good John I hope you have taken note of that. Because I am running out of steam. The last question I have on reforms is, search deep, what are the three regrets that you have that you would have wanted to, let me rephrase, you could have and would have wanted to better but you couldn’t?

A: I will lose my job if I get down that path. I am happy to talk about the regrets off camera, I think it will not work while the media is all here.

Q: Fine. So, maybe I just want to ask you two more questions, then we open up to the various tables. Elections – you were a treasurer 5-6 years ago for the election in 2014. Now there’s 2019 coming up, what’s the big difference? You know, the other thing I will mention, macro is important to us but so is the political thing. I think we all believe that the continuity factor is very critical for us, for all of us. We have got billions of dollars in lot of reform, and continuity is important, so as we look at 2019 vs 2014, what is the broad assessment that you have?

A: Don’t get carried away by what you hear and read in English medium, whether print or television, because not even 1% of this country’s population reads English newspapers or watches English channels – point 1. Send your teams and I would urge your organisation to probably commission somebody to go the length and breadth of the country and get feedback from what’s happening on the ground. There has been no government in the past which has had 220 million direct beneficiaries of government programmes, money and projects actually reaching the people directly, already. And I am not even including Ayushman Bharat, the health scheme because that’s just been launched, which will impact 500 million people.

Now, not necessary that everybody will get sick immediately, but it’s a great comforting factor that your healthcare costs are going to be taken care of by the government. And there are thousands and hundreds of thousands of cases in India, and most of the Indians in the room can tell you more about it where families have gone into debt distress and often literally become poppers when there was a slight illness in the family. It could be a simple thing like a dialysis required for a member of the family periodically and regularly.

Cancer and heart ailments can completely demolish a family. So it’s a very-very important comfort that 500 million Indians are going to get it. Nearly 300 million people didn’t have electricity, a day before yesterday, or maybe three days back. Bihar – Bihar was considered one of the most backward states in this country and I am sure you will appreciate that. Bihar has had 100% homes electrified, three days back from today. By January or maybe at best by February, every willing consumer, and I changed that terminology when I was Power Minster, from every household I said, look there will be these crazy guys who will not even apply for an electricity or some who may not want to actually pay a bill and still hook up a connection.

So I have used the word ‘every willing consumer’ but there will not be a single willing consumer in the entire country who will not have an electricity connection. So, effectively, 300 million people or 60 million families plus, which means you are looking at about a 120 million kids who had no electricity in their homes, and we are 70 years now after independence.

So, imagine if any of us had to be without electricity, even for an hour, we will start screaming murder, we will start talking of what penalties are going to be put on the DISCOM. You will start cursing all of us. Those people have lived generations without electricity.

Mr Modi in a short span of five years has done what the SDGs expected the world to do by 2030. If you know the SDGs, ‘Energy Access,’ I think it’s item 7 or 8, that by 2030 everybody will have energy access. We have done it in 2019, a good 11 years ahead of schedule. Of course, this was promised by the Congress in 2004 that they will complete it by 2009 that’s a different story that they have. But we have implemented every one of our programmes.

Financial inclusion – no family in this country who doesn’t have a bank account. Gas connections – Prime Minister Modi himself has suffered all of this, he used to live in a home where his mother used to cook. They would all eat sitting there, 400 cigarettes worth of smoke coming into each one’s lungs, particularly the women of the home. And madam you will appreciate how that can really hurt the health of the women. We have already given 55 billion homes a free gas connection, another six months, we are trying to take it up to about 80 million homes. We have added more gas connections in the last four and a half years than were added in history before this government came in. There were about 120 million homes and I think we are at about 230 or 240 million homes who now have a gas connection.

Now, we are going into the next phase of piped gas – 40 cities have already been tendered and bid out, or maybe more than 40, I think 70 or 80. 62! 62 cities where we are now going to set a piped gas connection and then we will expand that to all the cities, cutting down so much of these cylinders going back and forth.

So, I can keep going on and on as long as you want about the programmes of the government reaching the last man at the bottom of the pyramind, that’s the ideology that the BJP works in. We will win 2019 with 300+ seats of the BJP again, and a two-third majority with the NDA put together. And those of you who are holding back investments, hoping that we will do it after 2019, I can assure you that thanks to this holding back, prices are still reasonable for the next 6 months. Don’t miss out on that opportunity, after May 2019, you will have to pay an arm and a length more than today’s prices for the same access, KKR and Co.

Q: Okay, I just have two more questions. One is any comment on just the financial sector, because that’s top of everybody’s mind, again, don’t have to again but just broadly financial sector, banking reforms, banking recap – not the ILFS stuff just broad perspective?

A: You know, this is another tricky subject. If I shoot my head off on this, there will be banner headlines tomorrow and maybe the stock market will rise another thousand points with my views, but I will rather refrain from expressing my views in public. But clearly, on the financial sector, this government has done more than any government in the past, be it our IBC Code that we have introduced, be it the reigning in of inflation, reigning in of deficits, the growth momentum, moving out from the fragile 5 to the fabulous few. In every respect, this government has given growth a momentum, transparency a push, and on the financial side, I think Mr Jaitley has been one of the finest Finance Ministers we have had, who have brought in system order to the entire financial market. I hope other institutions would also support this effort in equal measure then the country can really fly and the economy can take another six notches growth further.

Q: Last question. Coal and Railways, your portfolio, we can’t get away from that. A lot of US companies here, anything that we could do more with India or for India?

A: Yeah, we are looking at engaging with newer technologies. I had a meeting with a gentleman who I think is in this room, at least I see his name on the list, even this morning. And I am looking at new ideas, new technologies, many of them will become very competitive when they are made in India. It’s not just because we want the Make in India programme, but your competitive edge cannot come if you manufacture in the US at the labour costs in the US, cannot come if they are manufactured in Europe, with labour costs in Europe, they will ultimately have to move to India. But the size and scale of opportunity that India offers whether in mining, not only coal, all sorts of mining, or in the railways, is again unparalleled compared to any other part of the world.

Having said that, one big difficulty I find is that many countries from abroad who want to come in and do business in India very often talk about stuff like lifecycle costs, I had this conversation this morning. Now, lifecycle costs is a great idea. If I was running my own business privately I could have factored that in and given business out, and almost every US company or European company comes and gives me a great deal of education about lifecycle costs. I appreciate it, it’s a great idea. But the reality is in government procurement, lifecycle costs can be misused so badly, like all of you will be run out of business if lifecycle costs were to be a factor in deciding who gets the economy right.

And I promise you, you will all be out of business, because lifecycle costs are almost near impossible to quantify objectively. There is a lot of subjectivity. So you may say that my equipment will run 20 years and the comparable equipment of Europe – I am not getting into the Europe-US fight it’s just an example – will run 10 years so I should get a value for my value proposition of 10 years extra life. Now I would hopefully no more be the Railway Minister, certainly a job that nobody in this country covets. I mean I just had to cut short my visit to the US. I had barely set foot on the US soil and I had to come back, you know that, last week. A big tragedy in Amritsar, so I had gone to receive an award at the University of Pennsylvania. I had just stepped in the University premises and had to come back.

But, what I am saying it’s is this lifecycle costs business, the officers would have all retired. Nobody can really know what’s going to happen 10 years later, but at the time of finalising the order it can be beautifully misused to favour one against the other and then you will scream murder that you know you have been discriminated against. So, I think you have to come up with practical outcomes. I am happy to make tighter technical specs, so we get the best products, but once a company crosses the hump on my technical requirements, then everybody should compete on price.

People have to come up with better terms. Japan came up with Shinkansen, where they are transferring technology to India, giving us 50-year money at .1% interest, 15-year moratorium. And I must congratulate Dr Jayshankar, a former foreign secretary for a tremendous effort he has personally put in, the amount of capital he invested you get this Japanese transaction through. And I think it’s a win-win for both, Japan in any case doesn’t know what to do with their money. They need business to keep their industries going and they cannot sell Shinkansen to anybody in the world at their manufacturing costs, but when they manufacture in India, the scale at which they can manufacture to supply to India they will become competitive for the rest of the world.

So, I think think objectively, be practical, come to India, Make in India, look at economies of scale, look at volume – what we did in the LED programme. Today, India is leading the global effort on energy conservation, thanks to the big push to LEDs that Prime Minister Modi gave. And it hurts me when I visit New York, when I visit Washington, it hurts me to see San Francisco, the kind of waste that America is causing. I mean 100-storey buildings lit up the whole night just for the skyline to look pretty, with not a single person working inside that office, and you justify it in the name of beauty, carrying two damn bits for the environment.

It really hurts a country or a set of people like us in India to see the enormous waste that you do, generate in the US. Even the pizza size in the US I think needs to be relooked.

Q: I thank you very much. Your dynamism and your passion is hugely ….. I think you do a great honour and pride to your country the way you express ideas and the actual reality. And I think to us as investors, it gives a lot more comfort as a people out there who are actually talking real metrics and real deliverables. So I think it’s superb to hear with that passion. So I would say just two questions and we let you go… okay guys, I think we have two questions if at all, because I think we have been generous of your time.

Audience questions

Q: Minister, you mentioned railways and coal during your portfolio and the political challenges have come with that, do you see a time when you may encourage further privatization or direct investment in those two sectors to take that burden away from the government?

A: Well, other than coal, all other minerals we already have commercial mining going on, whether it’s iron ore, manganese, bauxite, and limestone. In all other sectors, we already have commercial mining on. In the coal sector, I have introduced the law and we have approved the law and the methodology by which we can auction the mines for commercial exploitation. But again, I have to calibrate that and the right timing has not yet come, because one will have to carefully see what will be the best time and we can allow private miners to come in into coal mining in consultation with our local unions and local imperatives which also I have to handle.

So, I am not very keen to get a medal around my neck that hey, this guy opened up commercial mining but became the cause of power getting switched off all over the country because we run out of coal. So I have to calibrate the timing when I will allow commercial mining in coal. But I will do it gradually, not in a rush. It’s not as if the whole world is waiting to come to India to start commercial mining. I have yet to get that much expression of interest. I have already have to cancel three rounds of coal block auctions for lack of interest. So still I have taken out 19 coal blocks again now last week, let’s see the interests I get when I see there’s enough interests, I will offer commercial mines also.

Q: Mr Goyal, thank you. You know, this is US-India Strategic Partnership Forum here, and the India’s relationship with United States has matured over a period of time, and particularly, under Prime Minister Modi whether it was the Obama administration or the Trump administration, I think we have made enormous strides in the relationship. Albeit there have been differences that come up with time to time, in any relationship that will happen. Sitting from the vantage point that you do, if you were to sort of talk about two strategic engagements that are necessary between India and the United States. You know, we have got the Iran sanctions, we have got Russia, arms and all of that. But if you really look at it from, you know, we have got China sitting on the other side. What would be the …. Strategic initiatives that you would want to put on the table for Prime Minister and President to talk about when the meet next. Of course, we believe they are not meeting in January, but…?

A: This is far beyond my…. But I must say, all of us in India very-very deeply value not only our government-to-government engagement, but also our people-to-people and business-to-business engagement. I think there’s a natural affinity between the American side and the Indian side, and to my mind, we can only get better and better as this relationship matures. So to that extent, I think we are on the right path, both President Obama and President Trump have had a very good equation with Prime Minister Modi at an individual level, in terms of businesses, organisations such as yours add a huge value to our business-to-business engagement. On a people-to-people I think, we all love to be America, I hope more Americans come to India, so we can have a two-way tourism trade also expanding much more than it is now. So I think there’s a lot we can do in that.

On a strategic level, I think we have been building upon our the geopolitical engagement also, both sides have been quite understanding of each other’s positions, so we have not made a big issue out of some of the steps that the Americans have taken. America has been very cooperative and many of the steps that India has taken. So, to my mind, it’s a very beautiful interwoven relationship that’s been handled quite well. I would not like to be the cause of venturing to suggest anything sitting here, without deep knowledge of what’s happening behind the curtain. So, I think it’s best I stray away from venturing to suggest any particular thing.

I have already mentioned about one concern which India seriously has is about reciprocity in our engagement with each other, when I spoke about your interests to bring in more capital to India, our interest that there should be free exchange of people between the two countries. I mean, let America open up their borders for Indian talent and, obviously, nobody will accept other than talent to come in there. And we will open our shores fully, in fact, we have almost opened up every sector, and I don’t think there’s anything much left to open anymore.

Q: What I say would like to see is what will attract investments to India is rule of law and regulatory sector, both in the infrastructure space and across other areas, more importantly regulatory sector which gives people the stability and knowledge that if they invest that they know things will progress and they won’t have problems in terms of change of the regulations so forth. If you do that, I think you will be successful.

A: I fully appreciate and agree with what you said. In fact, when we came into government in 2014, one of the first commitments we made both to India and to the world is that we will not make tax changes or any regulatory changes which are retroactive or retrospective, and I think for four and a half years we have lived up to that. If any of you has any experience where we have made a retrospective amendment in regulation or law, taxes, which have hurt you please highlight it, maybe it can be highlighted through your organisation or even directly to any of us, Mr Jaitley, to me, everybody.

Q: No, but I think right now, we have not had a single tax notice on our company and we have actually sent money back on many transactions, I know we have folks from KMGP WC here. I think on retrospective act, you have really got the act together very-very well and there’s a clear definition of what the tax has to be on sale, on exchange.

A: You know, if you stop consulting these names that you took, ……. about tax saving and tax planning, maybe none of you would have to worry about retrospective taxes. On a lighter note, they are all my very good friends and I am a chartered accountant myself, but I think instead of trying to …. on that little bit of tax that the nation is requesting you to pay or of the profits that you make for your investments here, if you pay that tax willingly, everything will be hunky dory, point 1. But any case, we have not made any retrospective changes I say that with pride, and I am open to any suggestions you may have where you still think we need to have more regulatory certainty, our government and all of us in government are open to reassess, relook at the current structure any time that you like.

As regards the rule of law, I think India is one country, a little bit delayed justice sometimes, but we have never had a situation where rule of law has not prevailed. And I dare say, many of you have worked in China and have huge investments there, at least you cannot complain about the rule of India not working. We have a very robust judicial mechanism, people of India and even internationally our law courts are still trusted and there are several layers through which due process is carried out, and I think we are still proud of our rule of law, of the judiciary. If anybody has any experience to the contrary, we are open to have a dialogue and understand where your concerns come from. We are absolutely open to that.

Q: Thank youvery much Piyush. This was great.

It’s always a delight to be amongst all of you whom I consider as friends. Always good to hear your viewpoint also and I very much value the point that was made just now, but I at the cost of reputation, we are open to all suggestions – suggestions to add value to your business without compromising on our interests, obviously. We are open to suggestions whether on regulatory framework, whether on ease of doing business, whether on so-called reforms as you like to call them, very often not necessarily palatable to the people of India. But we are open to discuss, as I spoke about that example on lifecycle costs. I am happy to discuss, either I prove you or you prove me right, whichever, we can have a dialogue. And don’t get intimidated by my loud voice, it’s a throat problem. I have even gone to the doctor who treats Adele, but he also could not find me a solution. But thank you very much for a lovely evening, meeting with all of you.


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