Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Jewellery sector woes: When will govt stop turning a deaf ear
Bikky Khosla | 07 Jan, 2014
Our Current Account Deficit has improved significantly in the recent months and I think few would dispute the achievement of the policy makers in bringing the economy out of this crisis. What have helped most in tightening the noose around CAD are the variety of measures taken by the Ministry of Finance and the RBI to curb gold imports. The strategy worked well, but unfortunately at the cost of the interests of the jewellery sector, so much so that gold jewellery exports slumped 52.7 percent to $4.46 billion in the April-November, 2013 period.

The massive contribution of the yellow metal to our foreign exchange outgo of $56.8 billion in 2012-13 more or less justifies the anti-gold drive, but at the same time I am of the view that the government could have tried to find out a middle way instead of leaving the sector almost unattended during this difficult phase. They could have, for example, relaxed gold import norms at least for the gems and jewellery export units. And as CAD situation has improved now, I think there should be no further delay in introducing such relaxations.

Doing away with the 'Gold Control Raj' is important not only to help jewellery exports but also to prevent rampant smuggling of the yellow metal as reflected by large number of smuggling incidents being reported since May at various international airports in the country. The media is also reporting how heavy duties are forcing Indian jewellers to open shops in overseas markets, particularly in the Gulf countries. I think such negative sentiments will continue until the import restrictions are relaxed.

The government should take the ongoing slump in the sector as a lesson and carefully analyse how the long-term interests of the sector can be safeguarded. Recently, an expert told us that the sector should be given Industry Status so that it can gain more benefits from banks and government bodies. Also, I think what can make a big difference is emphasis on value addition for which we must help our domestic industry and equip it with new technologies. Technological changes are fast happening in this sector and we need to keep ourselves abreast of the newest developments.

In addition, measures like awareness programs about changing customer preferences in the international markets, promoting 'Brand India' jewellery on various platforms across the globe, helping our artisans and craftsmen enhance their skills by motivating them through proper wages, improved working conditions and training programs are needed. Such steps will help pave a better future for the sector the contribution of which to the country's GDP, exports and employment is beyond any question.

There could be many more challenges I have missed here, and I request you to raise your issues -- what are the challenges you are facing and what you want the government to do for betterment of the Indian gems and jewellery sector.

Courtesy: SME Times