Goyal tries to sell Air India in Davos, explains why Modi 1.0 didn’t disinvest PSUs

Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal said the Modi government had inherited an economy in a bad shape; PSUs would not have fetched the right prices

Amid Narendra Modi government’s all-out efforts to sell Air India that is reeling under debt and wasting taxpayers’ money, Union Railway, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said in Davos on Thursday that if he had not been a minister, he would have been bidding to buy the state-owned airline. Goyal arrived at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday.

Air India has been incurring losses for a long time and the government is now finalising the modalities to sell it while also trying to address the concerns of its employees that the buyer may not retain beyond a year.

Speaking in a session organised on the theme of “Strategic Outlook: India” at the WEF 2020, Goyal said, “If I weren’t a minister today, I would be bidding for Air India. It has some of the best bilaterals the world over… a well managed and efficient Air India with a lot more good aircraft put in using these bilaterals is nothing short of a gold mine to my mind.”

Bilateral refers to an agreement between two countries that allows the airlines of each to use a certain number of seats of the other country. This allows the airline to adjust the number of seats on international flights.

‘We inherited an economy in terrible shape’

Asked about the privatisation of other companies, including Air India and BPCL, Goyal said the Narendra Modi government had inherited an economy in terrible shape in the first term. For the second term in a row, the dispensation is taking necessary steps to bring the economy back on track, the minister said.

If the government had adopted the path of disinvestment of the ‘gems’, the PSUs would not have got the value they deserved from the buyers, the minister said.

“India today is a land where you have equal opportunity, you can work with integrity,” Goyal said. He added that he thought cleaning up the banks and strengthening them was a good job the government had done.

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