Vedanta fully endorses the vision of Hon’ble Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi Ji on utilization of immense human capital clubbed with natural resources of India for creation of millions of employment opportunities in India and making India a USD 5 trillion economy in the next few years. A recent Morgan Stanley report also stated that with government policies and massive disruptive workforce Indian economy is well placed to reach USD 5 trillion mark by 2025.
The United States of the early to mid- 1900's has some striking parallels with the India of today. It was around this time that America began its journey towards becoming the world’s largest economy.
The biggest factors that propelled the growth and transformation of the US were technology, natural resources, manufacturing and private enterprise; a few men who dreamt big helped create the modern America. Andrew Carnegie, John Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, J P Morgan and Henry Ford with their entrepreneurial spirit and innovative approach built businesses that helped make the transition to the modern industrial era. They laid the foundations of the American steel industry, oil and gas, natural resources and mining, manufacturing, finance and infrastructure building including roads, rail and ports.
America’s growth journey has some lessons for India. Both are large vibrant democracies with abundant natural resources. While America benefited from a large flow of immigrants in search of the American dream, India has a large population in the working age group. More importantly, like the US, India has people with entrepreneurial spirit who can visualize a new India and unleash its potential.
India is a country with one of the largest reserves of natural resources in the world, the transformational potential of India’s resources sector is immense. Over $1-Trillion treasure is waiting to be explored in India. An open and simple exploration policy for extraction of natural resources will make India an economic powerhouse that will have the potential to create millions of employment and eradicate poverty.
India’s current underutilization of resources tells almost an unbelievable story. Despite having a similar geology to North America, Latin America, Australia and South Africa, we produce only 20% of our natural resource requirements. The mineral exploration industry in countries such as Canada spends over $2 billion per annum in green-field exploration, whereas India spends less than $50 million.
The scope is immense since Indian almost imports 100% oil, gold, fertilizers and even electronics.
What surprises is the bauxite mining in India, a raw material used to make aluminium. In spite of rich reserves of over 3.5 billion tonnes, that can make India the top 5 aluminium producers in the world, India is not able to mine bauxite for the last over 35 years. India has failed to tap the large aluminium market, widely known as a green metal, and lost out to countries like China that fully imports the raw material. Even with 3.5 billion tonnes of bauxite, which is the third largest reserve of bauxite in the world, India only manages an annual production less than 2 million tonnes of aluminium. In contrast, China that has no reserves of bauxite but produces about 20 million tonnes of aluminium annually.
The story is similar in the case of iron ore. Given our reserve level, we are in a position to produce quantities matching Brazil’s and Australia’s, which produce in the range of 600 million tonnes per annum. Against this, we have so far been producing a modest quantity of over 100 million tonnes on yearly basis that also stands drastically reduced due to cap on production.
Narendra Modi Ji transparency can prove to be a milestone in the history of job creation through utilization of natural resources as this is a sector that has the potential to create employment not just in urban sector but also in rural part of the country. This is a sector that needs young engineers, chartered accountants, management graduates, geologists, community service professionals, and also unskilled manpower that is sourced almost 100% from nearby villages.
What is needed is a simple policy that auctions natural resources in the most sustainable and transparent manner, on revenue sharing basis or highest royalty. It will also encourage young start-ups who are keen to develop ancillary industries to utilize the metals using best of global technology. The key to this simple revolution lies in a simpler regulatory framework, based on transparent policies and processes, emphasising self-declaration and strong deterrents and penalties for non-compliance.
We also need to simplify and unify our regulatory and approval process across the board by reducing at least 80% of our processes as well as clearance time. This can be done using technology, automation and simpler policies and rules. A simplified regulatory and approval process could be a good enabler to get the best out of our bureaucracy.
As a suggestion, to strengthen the country’s economy form a single large ministry to deal with development of all natural resources, bring oil & gas, mines, coal and steel under single umbrella and under a strong visionary leader. This new Ministry of Natural Resource would look into the optimum development of natural resources.
These are some of the factors that also enabled America to emerge as an economic powerhouse. India can follow suit as long as all stakeholders have the will and commitment.
The world is looking at India as the next destination after China. Some of the biggest advantages that India has are its vibrant democracy, a vigilant media and an excellent legal framework.