PM Modi sells $20 trillion Indian economy dream

What were the key take-aways from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 40-45 minute address to the Captains of Business and Industry at the Economic Times Global Business Summit on January 16? On one hand, everything he said, because of the freshness of his outlook, the excitement generated by the possibilities he outlined, and his obvious determination to see it through.

It sounded very much like he wants to shrink the very expensive Government, restricting its scope to those things it does best, and move it out of things better done by the private sector. This sounds downright Reaganesque; this desire to dismantle the entrenched ‘command and control' mindset will be extremely difficult to implement, given the self-perpetuating nature of the beast. But there were a host of other difficult ambitions too, with regard to both processes and brand new infrastructure needed.

In fact, the entire speech, delivered pointedly in English, was bristling with them. If the Modi Government is able to implement everything NaMo spoke of, this country will certainly be transformed beyond recognition.

India Inc., packing the hall at Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi where the Summit was held, was both mesmerised and delighted, never having heard a Prime Minister lay out such a bold vision for the nation ever before.

Modi wants to affect substantial tax reform, cutting some out, and simplifying others. He wants to reduce expenditure and wastage wherever possible via the new Expenditure Management Commission. He wants to speed up the processes of Government and computerise the notoriously inefficient PDS supply chain system, this right from the FCI godown to the neighbourhood ration shop.

Going further, he wants to remake the entire agricultural backbone, modernising it with state of the art materials handling, storage, transportation and food processing mechanisms. He plans to have first class communications. Indian farmers will be linked digitally to global markets. Farming itself will be made more productive via the latest ongoing technology, and thereby become remunerative as an activity as well.

Modi wants overall growth, substantial in nature, daring to dream of the Indian economy at $20 trillion, up from its present $2 trillion. Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu later spelled it out as a 9 per cent annual growth rate, sustained year on year going forward.

And Modi is very clear that he wants to carry the poor with him on this upwardly mobile journey. He flatly refuses to countenance a cut in subsidies for now, but indicated that the Government would henceforth attempt to deliver reliefs to the intended recipients, without the endemic systemic leaks that have plagued its administration. Much of the confidence in this regard is due to massive digitisation plans, the elimination of duplication and middle men, and time bound processes.

But to Modi the purpose of his Government is to work for the poor first of all, and create growth with jobs for everyone. Alongside these soaring and visionary plans, Modi indicated that he felt development was not just the Government's business, but needed the participation of all sections of society to succeed. Likewise, in the thrust for cleanliness under the Swachh Bharat initiative, and the cleaning of the Ganga, the participation of the populace was of the utmost importance. Tourism could only be promoted properly, for example, if the country was clean and had the necessary infrastructure.

Narendra Modi as PM does not usually consent to address conclaves organised by private media platforms, however well regarded. Particularly one that has consistently criticised his efforts, motives and value system for over a decade while he was in power in Gujarat, and continues to do so, even now that he heads a majority Government at the Centre.

The Times Group employs tens of thousands of pro-UPA/Congress staffers and journalists, ploughing that particular furrow for years, who may find it very difficult to change course, and rectify their ingrained bias, even if the atmospherics suggest that the owners seem keen enough to do so. This subtle turnabout at the top is largely in recognition of the perception that the BJP is probably here to stay, for a decade at least.

But, because of his confidence in his plans, Modi decided to grace this occasion. It was also attended by eminent economist and academic Jagdish Bhagwati, the pro Modi eminence grise of the economic Right, and a somewhat awe-struck Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, busy muting his usually Left of Centre positions, replacing them with fulsome praise for India's future, even juxtaposed with his version of China’s report card!

The very interesting thing at this Summit was that Vineet Jain, one of the owners of the Times Group, categorically congratulated the Government for going in for ordinances in order to get over the obstructionism in the Parliament. That this was echoed heartily by the great and the good in India Inc. is, of course, not surprising.

Courtesy Niti Central


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