New Delhi: Stepping into a ministry that had in recent times been attacked for slow decision-taking, 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 percent, 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 USD 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 percent 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.
Parrying questions on Reliance Industries, Moily said decisions will be quickened for all. "What I have done is spelt out the national priority.
"When I say decisions are to be taken quickly, it means everything. I do not want to particularise any particular company," he said, refusing to answer queries on RIL's pending issues.
"It is not to benefit one or two individuals or companies. It is to benefit of the country and its people."
The first task at Moily's hands is to clear confusion surrounding the decision to cap supply of subsidised domestic cooking gas to six cylinders per household in a year.
There were demands from within the ruling party to raise the cap to at least nine. Perhaps, the government was veering towards that idea when elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh were announced leading to its deferment.
Moily would also have to sort out the continued delays Reliance Industries and its British partner BP Plc face in getting investment and other approvals that are needed to revive fortunes at the flagging eastern offshore KG-D6 fields.
The bigger task at hand would be to resolve the KG-D6 gas pricing row. While RIL-BP have been seeking a market price, the oil ministry under Reddy had opposed the move tooth and nail.
Reddy had even moved a note for consideration of the Empowered Group of Ministers to reject any change in rates before April 2014 even at the cost of ignoring RIL-BP's June application that sought a new price on expiry of current rates in March 2014.
On Reddy, Moily said, "What you are reporting is absolutely baseless. Reddy has done a wonderful job and set highest standard of probity in administration."
"Portfolios do change. I have seen three portfolio changes, does it mean I have been downgraded," he asked.
Moily moved into the Petroleum Ministry from Ministry for Corporate Affairs. He had also held additional charge of the Ministry of Power since July-end when Sushil Kumar Shinde was elevated as Home Minister. Previously, Moliy had also held the law portfolio.