“The momentum for reform shall continue. Several more active reform-related steps are being taken up,” says Nirmala Sitharaman
A new, unified single window clearance system for foreign direct investment (FDI) proposals would be in place by March 31, a top government official said on Monday, stressing that this would not only make approvals transparent but expeditious.
“An effective, unified, single window will be made available so that access to regulators, policymakers and facilitators are all available at one point from wherever you are and you will be able to access it digitally,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told multinational companies at a meeting hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
Guruprasad Mohapatra, secretary in the department of promotion of industry and internal trade under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, said that the single window clearance system being developed will be ‘very effective’ and enable the potential investor to interact with all the Ministries whose approvals are required, in the central government as well as in the States.
“We are expecting to put it in place by March-end. That will help investors a lot in not just getting information about the status of approvals, but in getting faster approvals,” he said. Mr. Mohapatra also said the Centre’s industrial information system for potential investors now includes details of land availability in as many as 14 States.
‘Sovereign Funds interested’
Ms. Sitharaman said the government had seen fresh interest from large sovereign wealth funds looking to invest in the country and conceded the need to address many compliance issues that worry investors at large.
“In this year’s Budget, just two-three weeks before we went into lockdown, we promised tax concessions for sovereign wealth funds investing in the country. Since then, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw interest expressed by several sovereign funds,” she said.
“The National Infrastructure Investment Fund has been actively engaging with them through the lockdown to see how best we can facilitate them with the benefits of the tax concessions given and the pipeline of infrastructure projects. These funds now want to tie up with many of these projects and I understand the last one month, we have had at least two new sovereign funds coming and asking ‘Can we also benefit from the tax concessions’,” the Minister said.
Stressing that the government would continue the momentum of reforms undertaken during the pandemic, the Finance Minister said that several more active reform-related steps were being taken up and feedback from global investors would be factored in.
“From a multinational company’s perspective, if you were to look at the Indian economy and where the emphasis is going to be in the coming Budget and in policymaking, I will start by saying the PM has himself been engaging with the global investor community and talking about how he views India in this changing environment. They are speaking about what they see and expect from India in the policy space,” she said.
Responding to MNCs’ concerns about delays in bilateral advance pricing agreements (APAs) and tax dispute settlements, Ms Sitharaman agreed that APAs must be expedited instead of taking five years as they had been in some cases, which defeated the purpose.
“We do need a robust system to resolve disputes on an ongoing basis rather than wait for a day to announce a scheme. There should be simultaneous tracking of disputes to settle them at the earliest. We shall see what can we do,” she said.