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Lobbying influences government policies
Today, you will read General Awareness Topic:
"Lobbying influences government policies"
Lobbying is broadly described as attempts to influence the decisions of the government while lobbyist is a person who is working for an employer to persuade legislators to vote for legislation that favours the lobbyist's employer. Usually, lawyers, retired bureaucrats, chartered accountants, and those in the corporate communications business work as lobbyists.
There are no regulations on lobbying in India, so far, but it is not illegal either. Lobbying is a well-established industry though it operates in a largely opaque environment. There have been demands from the lobbying industry and also, outsiders to spell out clear laws determining dos and don'ts for the practitioners, but it hasn't happened so far.
Protagonists of lobbying see it is an "iterative" process and lobbyists function as a bridge between companies and the government. Lobbying holds both the promise of democratic participation and better policy, and the threat of corruption and a state captured by special interests.
Industry bodies such as Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), National Association of Software and Services Companies are among the top lobby groups. However, they don’t consider themselves as a lobby group and but only working as an influence to engage with the government on the policy issues.
Some of other companies, such as Integral PR, Perfect Relations and Genesis PR, started as straightforward public relations firms, but have diversified into corporate advocacy and lobbying. Others, like Niira Radia’s Vaishnavi, Neucon and Noesis, Suhel Seth’s Counselage, or Deepak Talwar’s DTA Associates, were launched with corporate lobbying as their core business. These firms represent top private companies and lobby for them with policy makers. There are some individual lobbyists such as Tony Jesudasan, who represents the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group.
The Planning Commission has set up an expert group to look into the processes that comprise lobbying. This expert group comprises industries and government secretaries. There is an ongoing dialogue with the industry associations for their views in order to make lobbying transparent and representative. India lobbying is a grey area. Although businessmen often discuss projects with government officials, companies are not allowed to spend money on lobbying. Corporate contributions to political campaigns are also banned. As a result, lobbying is usually kept under wraps.
Corporate lobbyists have become important mediators and sometimes active players in business-government relations in a number of areas, including the infrastructure (highways, ports and huge projects under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission in 63 cities), energy (including gas, oil and energy), telecom (where the 3G auction bids show that the earlier 2G-spectrum were sold at a fraction of the market price).
Industry is often more articulate and specific in making demands on the Finance Minister before budget. It has asked for lower individual and corporate taxes, certainty in taxes and the rollout of the goods and services tax (GST). It does not want retroactive tax hikes or the kind of surprises sprung by the Union Budget last year. Representatives of industry have particularly lobbied against the imposition of any tax on commodity derivatives as well as inheritance tax. For revenue, they suggest monetisation of surplus government land and assets of sick public sector undertakings.
Crores of rupees have been spent over the past few years by some of the big multinational corporations to seek an entry into India. What may appear to be economic decisions taken by the government often turn out to be the result of intense lobbying by foreign companies. Besides Wal-Mart Stores, the coffee shop giant Starbucks, which runs a global chain of coffee shops, has been lobbying in India seeking 100 per cent FDI in single brand retail.
India has emerged as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and a host of the companies from across the world, including from the US, are seeking to enter this market or further expand their business here. Despite a global economic slowdown, countries like India and China have delivered an impressive growth. A powerful lobbyist can get laws changed even if there’s no public consensus to do so, and yet those laws still apply to everyone.
In its landmark judgment cancelling 2G licences granted by the Government, the Supreme Court came down heavily on ‘behind the door’ persuasion on policy making activities. In Indian context, the difference between lobbying and bribing is often blurred. Therefore, a proper legislation on lobbying is required which may affect the companies but didn’t effect the overall government policy and fabric of democracy.