Successive droughts of the last two years had contributed to zero agriculture growth. A vast range of commercial crops, including sugarcane and cotton, recorded decline, causing widespread misery in several parts of rural India.
In this background the prediction of an average monsoon is welcome. This kindles hopes on a significant improvement in agriculture growth. This has two favourable tidings: first a higher rate of economic growth, with agriculture sector accounting for 14 per cent of GDP, the jump in the agricultural sector could contribute to more than one per cent growth of GDP. CII predicts economic growth can be around 8.2 per cent!
The second is its impact on the rural economy. Better incomes would trigger higher spending on goods and services and will help increased production of consumer goods and other services.
Naushad Forbes, who had taken charge as President-CII, pointed to several green shoots: much higher demand for automobiles and tractors, step up in investments on highway development, railways and other infrastructure sectors and an improvement in investor sentiment. He also referred to the Centre facilitating states to undertake reforms in crucial areas like land and labour.
Forbes pointed to Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan undertaking labour reforms to ease doing business. He also referred to Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu focusing on land reforms intended to facilitate acquisition for business purposes.
No ‘Connect’ with electronics hardware
Despite years of references to the potential of electronic hardware manufacture, there has been little action on the ground. Tamil Nadu began well with export on the annual ‘Connect’ event. In the early 2000s, there was an explosive growth in the IT, communications and telecom hardware industries in Sriperumbudur and elsewhere. Remember Nokia – Foxconn setting up world class facilities and Nokia emerging the largest manufacturer of cell phones? In quick time, this thrust was lost. Confusion over tax policy and poor industrial relations led to the failure to build on this excellent start. Several electronics units in that complex closed down.
Make in India efforts hurt
Such an approach also needs tweaking tax policies. I refer to the failure of doing this hurting the Make in India effort by citing the experience of the Dell Computers (DC). This computer giant has set up a unit in Sriperumbudur and produces around 3000 PCs and laptops per day. With several state governments promising free laptops for students, combined with the tremendous growth in demand for these from other sectors, one can imagine the potential for volume production. But, on a visit to this facility, I noticed a few interesting factors: the first is the modest volume of production, of around 3000 per day or around a million a year. Second, the unit provides employment to local women with a higher secondary pass who are quite nimble and efficient.