Heavy industry minister Praful Patel, Rajan Mittal of Bharti Airtel fame, and Sajjan Jindal of JSW, spoke at the THiNK 2012 in Goa. Praful Patel joked that credibility of politicians is at an all time high referring to the many scams being uncovered.
He admitted that business and politics have to coexist. I could not feel a touch of irony as the Comptroller and Auditor General has accused him of doubtful investment decisions when expanding the Air India fleet. To the comment of the moderator that government ministers need money he was perhaps Freudian to agree with a loud “We certainly do”: his declared assets amount to Rs.119 crore.
Sajjan Jindal stressed for the need for the government to remove the discretionary powers they have and to make decisions more transparent. Rajan Mittal added a sentiment very close to my heart that a government should restrict itself to regulating and not be involved in business. “Government needs to be more compact, lean, and transparent” Mittal added. Patel acknowledged that the government has to decide whether it wants to be in business or in government as now corporates are often competing with the public sector. “Right now there are simply too many areas with a conflict of interest” he acknowledged.
Jindal stressed the need for transparency in the election process. He highlighted that for example in the USA there is no discretionary power so one is not too concerned who wins the the election. He operates in twenty countries and on the question on how Jindal could operate in Africa, he was quick to say that “if you can drive in India you can drive anywhere”. I fully agree with him!