Cement, IIP and "Make in India"
Cement, IIP and "Make in India"

Cement, IIP and "Make in India"

The program called "Make in India" was intended to give a much-needed push to the manufacturing sector in India. The obvious objective was to grow the share of manufacturing in our GDP from a nondescript 15 per cent to a shining 25 per cent, which in turn would mean generation of new jobs by the millions - since manufacturing has been assumed to be labour-intensive, according to traditional wisdom - and no one can fault the relevance of the idea to our economy.

However, judging by the way the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) has moved in the last two years, this crucial program is yet to find its feet, leave alone delivering any noteworthy results on the ground. This could be because this good idea has neither been backed up by anywhere near an equally good strategy, nor by a good measure of execution. The challenging task is to translate such visionary concepts into well-coordinated policies and actions, which has not fructified yet.

To be credible, we must work with data, and there is no reason why we should not analyse this issue with reported numbers in public domain. During the so-called period of reforms in India from 1991 to 2014, the manufacturing sector did grow at a CAGR of about 7.5 per cent, if we took the average of IIP numbers and the Annual Survey of Industries. Even if we were to take the shorter and more recent period of 2005 to 2014, IIP throws up an average annual historical growth rate of 5.7 per cent. Contrast this with a dismal IIP growth of 3.5 per cent in FY15, 4.6 per cent in FY16 and a shocking 0.4 per cent in 11 months of FY17.

If one were to go by any kind of quantification and measurement of outcomes by data, the conclusion about success or otherwise, of "Make in India" will be very obvious. Add to this the facts that credit growth has stagnated, industrial capacity utilisations have fallen and merchandise exports have declined, and you have a clearer picture of what is happening with "Make in India".

How does cement figure in all this? Eight "Core" industries comprise nearly 38 per cent of the weightage of items included in the IIP. These are Coal, Crude Oil, Natural Gas, Petroleum Refinery Products, Fertilizers, Steel, Cement and Electricity. No wonder then, that some people say consumption of Steel, Cement and Electricity reflects the progress of a nation, although in today's age of Internet and start-ups and artificial intelligence, this may sound too sedate and conventional.

While we do seem to know, that the steel cement and power sectors have not exactly covered themselves in glory during these "Make in India" years, let us take a look at the cement industry's numbers.

There were days (and years) in the bygone past, when we used to have a strong correlation between GDP growth numbers and growth of cement consumption. In the post-decontrol era, from 1992 to 2012, cement demand has grown at a CAGR of 7.4 per cent as against a GDP growth CAGR of 7 per cent for the same period, showing a strong linkage between progress of the economy and consumption of cement, which is logical. Then came a new method of calculating GDP growth (which catapulted India to the exotic position of the fastest-growing country on Earth) and also came the launch of "Make in India" to give a boost to manufacturing, and this realistic and elegant relationship between growth of the economy and growth of cement got severed.

So, you now have an unusual situation during FY14 through FY17, when the GDP growth numbers per year were a very robust and healthy 7.3 per cent to 7.9 per cent, but cement consumption growth disappointed, with much lower growth figures of 4 per cent, 4.5 per cent and 1 per cent respectively.

Data can sometimes reveal the truth and sometimes hide it, depending on how we present it. But, to the best of my knowledge and belief, cement consumption growth figures, being based on absolute numbers, wouldn't lie.

Sumit Banerjee Chairman, Editorial Advisory Board

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