New Delhi: Stepping into a ministry that had in recent times was seen as indecisive, the new Petroleum Minister M Veerappa Moily on Monday promised quick decisions and creating an environment conducive for investment to flow in. Moily, 72, who replaced S Jaipal Reddy, said his priority would be to intensify domestic oil and gas exploration to reduce import dependence that had played havoc with inflation.
"Emphasis will be on quick decision making and innovation. Decisions should not be delayed. Delaying decisions will cost the nation. We do not want any delay in decisions," he said after taking charge. Lauding his predecessor, under whom the Ministry was accused of being indecisive and almost halting oil and gas exploration, Moily said Reddy had done "wonderful job, setting highest standard of probity in administration".
"Many a times it happens (that) you avoid taking decisions. That is not a solution. Avoiding or delaying decision is not a solution. And this is where we need to very seriously work on," said Moily, who was previously Minister for Power and Corporate Affairs. Decisions, he said, would be taken keeping the national interest in mind and not to be "benefit one or two individuals or companies."
Laying out priorities, Moily said a conducive environment would be created for domestic and foreign companies to explore for oil and gas so as India's import dependence, which is at an alarming level of 80 per cent, is reduced. Also, the vexed issue of losses state retailers suffer on selling fuel below cost will be addressed by bringing in efficiencies and not by cutting subsidies.
"Investment will have to be attracted through conducive policy environment... We need to create that kind of confidence with the investors that this is the country that (should be their) investment destination," Moily said.
Moily said over $13 billion have been committed in the nine rounds of New Exploration Licensing Policy, which have resulted in 254 exploration licences. "Efforts will be to remove bottlenecks, if any, towards augmenting this investment on ground," he said. The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Moily said, was a challenging ministry that affects the national economy in a very big way.
"Average consumption of petroleum products in developed countries if 14 barrels per person per year. In developing nations, it is 3 barrels per person per year. India's picture is not at all a happy. It is approximately 1.2 barrel per person per year," he said.
"This is a matter of great concern. Our endeavour would be to bring up consumption to decent level of 6 barrels per person per year. We have to prepare a roadmap for that," he said. Domestic exploration will be intensified to cut reliance on imports that have led to high inflation rate as well as pressure on the Indian currency, Moily said. Oil imports, which make up for 80 per cent demand currently, need to be tapered, he said, adding that efforts would have to be made to reduce import dependency.
Also, oil companies will be encouraged to acquire assets abroad while ensuring availability of sensitive petroleum products at affordable prices. The Petroleum Ministry, which was scene of the nation's biggest corporate battle a few years ago, had almost gone into limbo after Reddy took over in January 2011.
From delaying approval to India's largest foreign direct investment (FDI), to being a reluctant party to fuel reforms, the ministry has been accused of being regressive and negative towards the industry during the past 22 months. "I have always found in my administrative experience of 40 years that we need to have positive mind," Moily said.