There is no one right way to making economic progress, declares the prime minister
GN Staff | December 4, 2015
The path his government has chosen is one that uses common sense to solve problems, declared prime minister Narendra Modi today.
Making it clear that there is no one right way to making economic progress, Modi defended his administration’s reform record at summit hosted by a media house in New Delhi. Results can come in many different ways, some of which may not be conventional but no less effective, the prime minister said.
In the backdrop of stalled legislative business and reforms process, he urged business leaders, policy analysts and opinion makers to look afresh at the work done by his 19-month-old government.
“Results can come in other ways, too, not necessarily in the way you think right... Change does not happen all of a sudden. One has to work towards it,” Modi said in a speech at the summit.
The prime minister listed a number of accomplishments that may not have made headlines, but have effectively addressed some of the problems that have plagued the country for years, or decades.
Take for example, he said, the drive to replace existing light bulbs with LEDs, which consume much less electricity. A fifth of the 100-city drive is already complete. Once all these cities have replaced their bulbs with LEDs, they will save 21,500 Mw of electricity every year.
“That is money saved... Rs. 45,000 crore saved per year by the people of these 100 cities.”
Similarly, a pilot project has freed Chandigarh of kerosene. The city used to consume 3 million litres a year in spite of the proliferation of gas cylinders there. When the Prime Minister looked into it, he found that 80 per cent of the kerosene was not reaching those for whom it was intended. Instead, it was being stolen and added to diesel.
The outcome was a lose-lose: more pollution and expenditure in foreign exchange to import the crude oil. The project further showed that only 3,200 poor families were really using kerosene for cooking. All of them were given gas cylinders and Chandigarh now needs no kerosene.
“This is the direction,” said Modi.
Pressure has also been mounting on Modi to boost manufacturing and other sectors to create jobs for about 12 million people entering the workforce in India every year. But he has also helmed the NDA government’s initiatives such as Jan Dhan Yojana, Make in India, Swachh Bharat and Digital India.
“There was an atmosphere of disappointment earlier. The mandate we got from people was the first step towards changing it,” Modi said.
Modi also said the government is focusing on reforming India's underperforming state-run companies, through measures such as privatisations and stake sales that can also help raise funds.
State firms dominate industries such as banking, oil marketing and coal in a legacy from India's socialist past, but many, often referred to as public sector undertakings or PSUs, are overstaffed and used to hand out jobs and political favours.
"Do we have just two options: divest or shut down? There is also a third way, corporatise (restructure) them. Change their work culture," Modi said in a speech in Hindi, at a media event in the country's capital.
Strikes often paralyses operations at state firms. Millions of workers across India recently stayed off work to protest against Modi's plans to loosen rigid labour laws, in a strike organised by trade unions.
Modi cited Shipping Corporation of India as a state-run company that had been successfully restructured, saying it was now posting profits.
The shipper's net profit had surged Rs 1.6 billion rupees in the July-September quarter, from 185.9 million a year ago, it said last month.
Still, the government is widely expected to continue pursuing its ambitious divestment plan, including a stake of 10 percent in Coal India that could raise as much as $3 billion, as it seeks ways to boost spending on infrastructure.
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