Disinvestment in India

[op-ed of the day] Strategic disinvestment does not deserve the criticism it getsop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- Pros and cons of strategic disinvestment.


Context

Air India is on the block.

Why disinvestment is not such a bad idea?

  • Wisdom lies in the use of resources to meet the emergent needs: True wisdom lies in the use of resources, including the so-called “family silver”.
    • To meet emergent needs.
    • As also for better returns.
    • Even individuals and private sector organizations committed to meeting their obligations or optimizing wealth creation take such initiatives routinely.
  • The weakening of Indian economy
    • This fiscal year’s second quarter growth in the gross domestic product (GDP) slipped to 4.5% and the portents of a slowdown have been quite apparent.
    • Private sector investment is sagging. Gross capital formation has dipped.
    • Aggregate demand has contracted.
    • Public sector expenditure is the single engine that’s driving economic growth.
  • Clamour for the government to open its purse and limited fiscal room.
    • Shrunk revenue growth: There is a clamour for the government to open its purse and help out. However, its revenue growth has shrunk.
    • Low direct tax collection: Direct tax collections registered a growth of only a little more than 6%.
    • The cautious approach by the RBI: The Reserve Bank of India has taken a rate cut pause, inter alia, to watch the government’s approach to the fisc.
    • Commitment to low inflation: The political executive seems determined to honour its commitment to low inflation and macroeconomic stability.
    • India facing Hobson’s Choice: India is thus faced with a Hobson’s choice—either to significantly revise its fiscal deficit target or monetize state assets.
  • The liberalized markets and optimizing wealth.
    • Perception in the capital market: Capital markets operate on perceptions. Valuations of public sector enterprises tend to be much lower than those of private sector companies even if their profit numbers are the same.
    • Why should India suffer suboptimal wealth creation?: The liberalized market philosophy that the country has pursued aims at optimizing wealth creation. In case a change in ownership structure can deliver higher wealth, why should Indian society retain the current ownership frame and suffer suboptimal wealth creation?
    • Need to make policies aimed at value creation: Given the limits on India’s resources, it is all the more important to see that policies are geared to ensure that value is created.
    • Stake sales can achieve value creation: For validation of this surmise, look at the rapid rise in the enterprise value of Bharat Petroleum, as indicated by its share price, since the announcement of its strategic disinvestment.
  • Not all private sector companies perform well: In those cases, the losses are not funded by innocent taxpayers.

Twin angles to welcome strategic disinvestment

  • One: The need for India to invest in fresh asset creation.
  • The fresh asset can be created by way of roads, ports and airports that would result in a cascade effect for the economy’s growth.
  • Two: The optimization of wealth generation from the country’s assets.
    • This, incidentally, will benefit individual shareholders, including employees with shares, who have invested in the equity of listed public-sector companies such as Bharat Petroleum.
    • Energy security of the country not harmed: As there are other state-owned petroleum companies undertaking exactly the same activities, such as refining and marketing crude oil, the sale of one company does not tamper with the energy security of the country.

Way forward

  • Caution against undervaluation: The government, however, must ensure that it is not taken for a ride. It must make a good judgment of the value of the company it decides to disinvest from and if the market conditions are not favourable for the move it must wait for the opportune moment.
  • Asset creation from the proceeds: Instead of using the proceeds from the disinvestment to fund revenue deficit the proceeds must be utilized strictly for new asset creation.

 

 

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