‘Govt Has No Business In This Business’: Anil Agarwal Urges Privatisation Of Mining Companies To Cut $400 Billion Import BillVedanta Chairman Anil Agarwal (Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Anil Agarwal, the founder and chairman of Vedanta Resources, has urged the government to privatise five mining companies, including Hindustan Zinc, which will help India potentially save part of the $400 billion that it spends annually on imports, Press Trust of India has reported.

The billionaire metals tycoon, was among the three industrialists invited for a pre-Budget meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi last Saturday (22 June) to review the macroeconomic situation of the country and to deliberate upon economic policy road map for boosting growth and employment generation.

Over 40 economists and sectoral experts. attended the meeting organised by NITI Aayog, on the theme "Economic Policy - The Road Ahead".

Anil Agarwal also said that the government has no business to be in the mining business. According to him, privatisation of mining firms, without any accompanying job cut, can help boost the economy by bringing in efficiency and raising domestic output.

"I was honoured to be part of the interaction organised by NITI Aayog on Saturday (22 June) and in my humble submission I told the Prime Minister that the government has no business to be in the business. It should divest its stake in at least five PSUs such as Hindustan Zinc, Hindustan Copper, Kolar Gold, Uranium Corporation, Shipping Corporation of India and NMDC," Agarwal told PTI in an interview.

"When we bought the majority stake in Hindustan Zinc Ltd, it had 5,000 employees. Today it has 25,000 employees," he said.

Vedanta had acquired 64.9 per cent government stake in Hindustan Zinc Ltd (HZL) during 2002-2003. As of now, the government holds 29.5 per cent stake in HZL, which Agarwal-led company wants to buy.

Mining in 200 blocks should be approved immediately and big blocks of coal, bauxite, copper and iron ore should be auctioned, he said, adding there should be no production cap such as ones existing in Goa and Karnataka on iron ore, Agarwal added.

Increased mining can add $500 billion to the economy and create two crore jobs, he emphasised.

Existing oil block contracts should be extended on the same terms and no retrospective tax should be imposed. Also, all forest and environment clearances should come in 60 days and corporate tax should be reduced to 20 per cent from current 30 per cent, Agarwal said.

Natural resources and electronics hold massive potential to create jobs, he said, adding India should focus on sustainable exploitation of underground resources.

Agarwal also warned that India's import bill of $400 billion may soon rise to $1 trillion if the government does not increase the output of oil and gas, minerals and metals such as gold.

He also suggested bringing down the government stake in state-owned companies and banks to 50 per cent and making them board-run just like British Airways and GE.

"All PSUs and PSBs can perform three times better if autonomy is given to them," he said.

"PSUs have huge potential and immense talent pool. But the executives are afraid to take decisions because of fear of inquiries. They should be empowered to take decisions."

The other two corporate honchos invited to the interaction were Tata Group Chairman N Chandrasekaran, who gave recommendations on manufacturing and services sectors, and ITC Chairman Sanjiv Puri, who spoke on value addition in the economy.

(With Inputs from PTI)

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