Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday asked service exporters not to depend on small subsidies or incentives to increase exports and instead enhance competitiveness.
He said the industry should work on increasing and strengthening their competitiveness to tap global markets.
Ambitious targets of exports should not be affected by “small support subsidies and incentives. That has been the bone of contention between some services sectors and the government,” Mr. Goyal said.
He was addressing an event organised by the Services Export Promotion Council (SEPC).
The sector has time and again demanded continuation of Service Exports from India Scheme (SEIS). The government has discontinued the scheme.
“If I look at the records, when SEIS was there, actually your exports did not grow at all, very nominal growth was there,” he said, adding “you must have observed that gradually I am removing all subsidies from the export system… because this makes us uncompetitive, this holds us back.”
Citing examples, he said the IT sector never sought any subsidy, yet “they record healthy growth rate in exports.”
“How long will this mentality last that give us ₹2, we will be able to increase exports… We need to look at our competitive edge. Do not depend on the government,” he said.
On free trade agreements, the Minister said India was seeking more market access for the services sector.
He added that opening up of the domestic legal services sector would benefit Indian lawyers as they would get huge opportunities in other countries.
There is no consensus yet on the issue among legal professionals here and if it is made later, then “we can provide legal services in the world,” he said.
He highlighted that people like chartered accountants and those in the IT sector do not fear competition and are working in different parts of the world.
When asked about giving work visas to foreign students here, the Minister said: “We do it bilaterally with countries because we do not want large inflows coming from only certain geographies. So it has to be seen, whom we want to give work visas.”
It should not become a tool to get permanent residency in India and “people who are already illegal immigrants [here], we are trying to take [them] out of the country,” Mr. Goyal said adding India wants “high quality talent to come and every country protects their borders.”
Further, he said the U.S. was keen to open educational campuses in India.
“I recently visited the Stanford University, they are keen to collaborate with Indian IIMs and private universities…. Saudi Arabia wants IIT campus…. Why can’t IIT set up campus in Saudi Arabia,” he added.
On foreign trade policy, he said the ministry was ready with the document and could release it anytime, but it was the demand of the industry to extend the existing policy.
Mr. Goyal said the sector was “well on track” to achieve $300 billion exports target for this fiscal year.
The industry is, however, aiming to take it to $350 billion. It was $254 billion in 2021-22. The government is also aiming to increase the exports to $1 trillion by 2030.
Speaking at the event, Sunil H. Talati, Chairman SEPC, said that the services sector contributes 55% of the total exports.
“By 2023, we aim to reach 75% and internalisation of education and skill development is key to witnessing such unprecedented growth,” he said.