In his first wide-ranging interview after assuming office for a second term, the Prime Minister told ET that he had taken the decision on withdrawing Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir after a “great deal of thought” and was certain this will help create three necessary conditions for investment – stability, market access and predictable laws.
“Open minds and open markets will ensure that the youth of the region will put it on the path of greater progress. Integration gives a boost to investment, innovation and incomes.”
“Expectations from India are not only from within the country, but even in the context of global growth and development, a lot is expected from our country,” the PM said, referring to the government’s economic agenda.The government, Modi said, wants entrepreneurs to enjoy higher productivity and better profits.
“I want to motivate our industrialists to believe in the India story and in the long-term potential of the Indian market. They should carry on their business and complete their investment plan without any confusion. I reassure all honest and law-abiding businesses of all possible support from our end.”
The PM went the extra mile to appeal to bankers to pass on the benefits of low interest to borrowers while assuring them against any harassment.
“No growth is possible if bankers stop taking decisions on day-to-day basis. I reassure the banking fraternity that all their decisions taken in good faith with sound business rationale would not face any witch hunt.”
Economic growth, Modi said, means “more money in the pockets of people” and not just to the state exchequer.
Outlining his government’s evolving approach to data-related issues, Modi sought to equate Right to Personal Data today with Right to Private Property in the beginning of the industrial age.
“We see Right to Personal Data in the machine intelligence age in a manner akin to Right to Private Property at the dawn of industrial era, as not merely a mechanism to protect but also as an enabler to spur commerce in ways we haven’t fully foreseen.”
Modi said the slowdown in the automobile sector is temporary and the transition to electric vehicles is not a cause for worry.
“The slowdown is transient, accentuated by credit constraints, some regulatory changes and passiveness in demand. I believe that both demand and the industry will bounce back strongly and soon,” he said.
The Prime Minister said the country has a large enough market and big enough policy space to ensure growth of internal combustion engine (ICE) based automobiles as well as electric vehicles (EVs).
“There is no need to speculate about the growth of either of the two. We are in a unique situation where both ICE and EV-based automobiles can co-exist, co-create and learn from each other,” the PM said.
Further, he said the government is committed to fulfilling the five-year vision of investment-led growth, targeting Rs 100 lakh crore.
“This would entail further liberalising our FDI policy, simplification of labour laws, further enhancing ease of doing business, power sector reforms, asset monetisation and asset recycling in public sector, and reforms in banking, insurance and pension sectors,” he said.
Asked about India’s strategy to take advantage of the trade war between the US and China and attract investments, Modi said, “Our policies are not designed to get some short-term benefit out of transient disruptions being seen around the world” and his administration is focused on “improving competitiveness through long-term reform measures”.
These include improving India’s ranking in ease of doing business, tax reforms with lower rates and simplifying procedures, labour sector reforms and FDI-related reforms to liberalise the investment climate.
He said the government is focused on making it convenient for global firms to bring goods in a “friction-less manner” into India, run factories or service centres here and re-export the resulting products.
Modi emphasised that part of his vision to double farmer incomes by 2022 is driven by a focus on increasing exports, especially related to the agricultural sector.
“We are not looking at farmers as just producers but as potential exporters,” the PM said. “Value addition by way of food processing will play a big role.”
The next step for the government on GST is to improve consumer awareness of the benefits of the system, he said.
“Presently, it is totally missing. Consumers should know their benefit under this system,” Modi said, adding that according to one study, GST rate reductions have helped the average middle-class family save about Rs 1,500 per year.
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