Definition of Disinvestment
At the very basic level, disinvestment can be explained as follows:
“Investment refers to the conversion of money or cash into securities, debentures, bonds or any other claims on money. As follows, disinvestment involves the conversion of money claims or securities into money or cash.”
Disinvestment can also be defined as the action of an organisation (or government) selling or liquidating an asset or subsidiary. It is also referred to as ‘divestment’ or ‘divestiture.’
In most contexts, disinvestment typically refers to sale from the government, partly or fully, of a government-owned enterprise.
A company or a government organisation will typically disinvest an asset either as a strategic move for the company, or for raising resources to meet general/specific needs.
Objectives of Disinvestment
The new economic policy initiated in July 1991 clearly indicated that PSUs had shown a very negative rate of return on capital employed. Inefficient PSUs had become and were continuing to be a drag on the Government’s resources turning to be more of liabilities to the Government than being assets. Many undertakings traditionally established as pillars of growth had become a burden on the economy. The national gross domestic product and gross national savings were also getting adversely affected by low returns from PSUs. About 10 to 15 % of the total gross domestic savings were getting reduced on account of low savings from PSUs. In relation to the capital employed, the levels of profits were too low. Of the various factors responsible for low profits in the PSUs, the following were identified as particularly important:
- Price policy of public sector undertakings
- Under–utilisation of capacity
- Problems related to planning and construction of projects
- Problems of labour, personnel and management
- Lack of autonomy
Hence, the need for the Government to get rid of these units and to concentrate on core activities was identified. The Government also took a view that it should move out of non-core businesses, especially the ones where the private sector had now entered in a significant way. Finally, disinvestment was also seen by the Government to raise funds for meeting general/specific needs.
In this direction, the Government adopted the 'Disinvestment Policy'. This was identified as an active tool to reduce the burden of financing the PSUs. The following main objectives of disinvestment were outlined:
- To reduce the financial burden on the Government
- To improve public finances
- To introduce, competition and market discipline
- To fund growth
- To encourage wider share of ownership
- To depoliticise non-essential services
Importance of Disinvestment
Presently, the Government has about Rs. 2 lakh crore locked up in PSUs. Disinvestment of the Government stake is, thus, far too significant. The importance of disinvestment lies in utilisation of funds for:
- Financing the increasing fiscal deficit
- Financing large-scale infrastructure development
- For investing in the economy to encourage spending
- For retiring Government debt- Almost 40-45% of the Centre’s revenue receipts go towards repaying public
- For social programs like health and education
Disinvestment also assumes significance due to the prevalence of an increasingly competitive environment, which makes it difficult for many PSUs to operate profitably. This leads to a rapid erosion of value of the public assets making it critical to disinvest early to realize a high value.