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PM hardsells ‘destination India’
The task of transforming India is proceeding on an “unprecedented scale”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the powerful ASEAN grouping on Monday while hardselling his Government’s economic reform initiatives to boost trade and investment. Addressing the ASEAN Business Forum in the Philippines capital, the PM said most sectors of the Indian economy were opened up for foreign direct investment, adding the country’s economy is now “globally integrated”.
“The task of transforming India is proceeding on an unprecedented scale. We are working day and night to ensure good governance which includes easy, effective and transparent governance,” he said, noting that more than 90 per cent FDI sectors are on automatic approval route.
Earlier addressing the Indian diaspora in the Philippines capital, Modi asked Indians to work hard to ensure that the 21st Century belongs to India and said his Government was making every effort to transform the country and take it to new heights. He said difficulties might be there but once it’s crossed no one can stop India from achieving new heights. “Our efforts are aimed at transforming India and ensuring everything in our nation matches global standards,” Modi said in his nearly 35-minute speech. Noting that 21st Century is described as Asia’s Century, the PM told the cheering audience that it is duty of every Indian to work hard to make it a century of India. “I say it is possible,” Modi asserted.
At the ASEAN Business Forum, Modi listed all major economic reform measures taken by his Government, including rolling out of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and new laws and institutions for bankruptcy and insolvency proceedings. He said 1,200 out-dated laws have been repealed in the last three years as part of reform measures. “India has climbed 30 places in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index this year. It is the biggest jump by any country this year and a recognition of India’s long term reform trajectory. And, the world is taking notice. We have moved up 32 places in the last two years in the Global Competitiveness Index of the World Economic Forum,” Modi said.
He said various reform measures coupled with demonetisation of high value notes have resulted in formalising a large part of the Indian economy. On trade with ASEAN countries, Modi said India wants to build land, sea and air connectivity to this dynamic region and that work is already on in the construction of the tri-lateral highway through Myanmar and Thailand to connect to other countries in South East Asia.
“We are working on the early conclusion of the Agreement on Maritime Transport between India and ASEAN and are exploring coastal shipping services with countries that are our immediate maritime neighbours,” he added.
The trade ties between India and ASEAN are on an upswing and both sides want to further boost the trade and investment cooperation. “The ‘Act East’ policy of my government puts this region at the centre of our engagement. We have exceptionally good political and people-to-people relations with each and every country in the ASEAN region,” he said.
The ASEAN region along with India together comprises combined population of 1.85 billion people, which is one fourth of the global population and their combined GDP has been estimated at over USD 3.8 trillion.
Investment from ASEAN to India has been over USD 70 billion in the last 17 years accounting for more than 17 per cent of India’s total FDI. Modi said his government wants to make India a global manufacturing hub and at the same time it wants the youths of the country to be job creators and not just job seekers.
The PM said 36 “white industries” have been taken out from the requirement of environmental clearance. Incorporating a company is now just a one day affair, he said. Modi also talked about the open auction policy for natural resources including telecom spectrum, coal mines and other minerals and even private radio channels, which he said has together contributed about $75 billion in revenue.
“Using technology, we are enhancing responsibility and reducing discretion and corruption. We are using our Unique ID system in financial transactions and taxation for this purpose and the results are already visible. These steps, coupled with demonetisation of high value notes, have resulted in formalising a large part of our economy,” he said.
Modi said the number of new tax payers filing income tax returns has more than doubled and that digital transactions have increased by 34 per cent in one year, as “we march towards a less-cash economy”. “We have used technology to reach out to people. An online citizen engagement platform, MyGov has harnessed ideas, suggestions and inputs on policies and programmes from 2 million pro-active citizens,” he added.
On GST, he said it has done away with a vast range of State level and central level taxes through-out India. “This is no small achievement given the vastness and diversity of our country and the federal nature of our polity,” he added.
Modi said a “very large part” of India’s population had no access to banking services and launch of the Jan Dhan Yojana resulted opening of 197 million bank accounts in one year, adding till August this year, 290 million such accounts have been opened in Indian banks. He said more than 146 million people are receiving direct cash subsidies through bank accounts on cooking gas alone.
“Today, the government is using Direct Benefit Transfers for 59 different schemes. Subsidies worth nearly USD 10 billion are being directly transferred to the bank accounts of the intended beneficiaries,” he added.
“For the first time in India, collateral-free loans have been disbursed to more than 90 million small entrepreneurs under the Mudra scheme. Very near to the population of Philippines,” the prime minister said. He said India is organising an ASEAN-India Connectivity Summit in New Delhi next month with ministers, officials and business representatives from all ASEAN countries.
India is also organising an ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit of ASEAN leaders in January next year.
The PM said India has always contributed to the world peace and more than 1.25 lakh Indian soldiers sacrificed their lives just for peace during the two world wars. “Our contingent in the UN Peacekeeping Forces is among the biggest. India is the land of Mahatma Gandhi, peace is integral to our culture,” he said, highlighting India’s contribution to the world peace.
Modi also lauded his government’s initiatives such as ‘Swachh Bharat’, ‘Jan Dhan Yojna’ and ‘Ujjwala Yojana’. “Which Indian doesn’t want cleanliness? We have started from where Mahatma Gandhi left and till now over 2.25 lakh villages in India have become open defecation free,” he said.
Stating that getting a LPG connection once used to be a big achievement, Modi said his government has provided free LPG connections to more than 3.5 crore families in over three years. He also attacked the Opposition and said that before 2014 people used to ask how much money has gone to scams but now they ask how much has come.
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