Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked Union ministries to discourage “inessential imports” and leverage the country’s manufacturing skills in substituting them.
Towards this end, the Union ministries are required to furnish status reports every quarter and brief the PM.
A senior government official said during a recent meeting with secretaries, Modi said that imports should be appraised on a regular basis and significant part of it should be reduced recognising India’s own capacity to manufacture these products.
“Modi’s logic for pruning imports is in line with his ‘Make in India’ programme, which he announced at his Independence Day speech,” the official said.
“Modi has told a half-a-dozen ministries to review the imports under their respective jurisdiction with a view to rationalise inessential imports within the premise of India’s international commitments under the World Trade Organization, while making all out efforts to strengthen the nation’s capacity to produce such products domestically,” the official added.
It is learnt that some of the ministries are steel, coal, petroleum, agriculture, telecom and information technology.
The concerned ministries will have to institutionalise a mechanism within their domain for regular review of imports to ensure that “trade deficit is not allowed to increase irrationally,” the official cited the Prime Minister as instructing these ministries.
The PMO has entrusted the commerce ministry to furnish quarterly status reports on the progress made in containing imports or at least the steps initiated in this direction.
“Commerce secretary Rajeev Kher has written to the concerned ministries on October 1 to depute a joint secretary level officer to coordinate with his ministry in this connection,” the official said.
The government is concerned by the surge in imports from China that has hit some of the industries hard.
The steel ministry has flagged the rising steel imports from the northern neighbour. It has cautioned that imports from China during the second quarter of FY15 has exceeded “the historic (quarterly) high” of 90 million tonnes and has demanded doubling import duty on value-added steel products to 15 per cent ad-valorem from 7.5 per cent currently “with immediate effect”.
Similar is the story with minerals like coal and iron ore. India has over 25 billion tonne of iron ore, yet due to legal and regulatory issues, it has become its net importer.
In the case of coal, the country’s power and steel utilities may have to import over 45 MT this year. Oil imports during September,2014 were valued at $14,497.3 million which is was 9.7 per cent higher than $13,213.0 million in the same period last year.
Trade deficit for September stood at $14,247.42 million, a year-on-year increase of 132.71 per cent, according to commerce ministry data.
The rise in trade deficit is attributed to surging imports without a comparable rise in exports. Imports have increased mainly due to gold, which saw a year-on-year growth of 449.7 per cent and metalliferous ores, whose imports rose 105.6 per cent.
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