|When the people of a nation make up their minds to go forward and when the power of the people is with us, hard challenges become huge opportunities. This confidence of mine is not formed in a vacuum, but founded on my experience over the last 19 months.
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I have been referring to cooking gas, fertiliser and kerosene subsidies. I must confess that I am surprised by the way words are used by experts on this matter. When a benefit is given to farmers or to the poor, experts and government officers normally call it a subsidy. However, I find that if a benefit is given to industry or commerce, it is usually called an “incentive” or a “subvention”. We must ask ourselves whether this difference in language also reflects a difference in our attitude? Why is it that subsidies going to the well-off are portrayed in a positive manner? Let me give you an example. The total revenue loss from incentives to corporate taxpayers was over Rs. 62,000 crore. Dividends and long term capital gains on shares traded in stock exchanges are totally exempt from income tax even though it is not the poor who earn them. Since it is exempt, it is not even counted in the Rs. 62,000 crore. Double Taxation avoidance treaties have in some cases resulted in double non-taxation. This also is not counted in the Rs. 62,000 crore. Yet these are rarely referred to by those who seek reduction of subsidies. Perhaps these are seen as incentives for investment. I wonder whether, if the fertiliser subsidy is re-named as “incentive for agricultural production”, some experts will view it differently.
I am not arguing that all subsidies are good. My point is that there cannot be any ideological position on such matters. We have to be pragmatic. We have to eliminate bad subsidies, whether or not they are called subsidies. But some subsidies may be necessary to protect the poor and the needy and give them a fair chance to succeed. Hence my aim is not to eliminate subsidies but to rationalise and target them.
Comment: The above paragraphs provide the real clue to the real Modi. His position is really non-ideological, non-doctrinaire. He does not want to be labelled as pro-business or even pro-market, but pro-solutions. And by solutions we mean solutions that are implementable in a political economy, and not necessarily the solutions preferred by economists, whether from the right or left.
In 19 months, much has been achieved. Much more is expected of us. And there are challenges ahead. Yet, I am now confident that we can successfully go forward, that we can successfully go faster, and that we can do so in a way that will benefit the common people.
When the people of a nation make up their minds to go forward and when the power of the people is with us, hard challenges become huge opportunities. This confidence of mine is not formed in a vacuum, but founded on my experience over the last 19 months.
We inherited a struggling economy, just recovering from a currency crisis. In less than two years, we have taken India to the top of global league tables of foreign investment and growth. Friends, we have a long way to go but I feel ours is a journey well begun. Like all long journeys, there may be obstacles on the way, but I am confident we will reach our destination. We have created a platform for a new future and for a new India:
An India where every child is born safely and maternal and infant mortality are below world averages,
An India where no person is houseless,
An India where every town and every village, every school and every train, every street and every house, are clean and sanitary,
An India where every citizen has access to good health care,
An India where every village has 24×7 electricity,
An India where every city is vibrant and livable,
An India where girls are educated and empowered,
An India where every boy and every girl is skilled and ready for productive employment,
An India where agriculture, industry and services provide well-paying jobs to all who need them,
An India where farmers know the nature of their soil, have the best inputs and reach global levels of productivity,
An India where enterprises, large and small, have access to capital and credit,
An India where start-ups and other businesses provide innovative solutions,
An India which is at the forefront of a global digital economy,
An India which leads the world in clean energy,
An India where every citizen has basic social security and a pension in old age,
An India where citizens trust Government and are trusted by Government.
And above all, a transformed India where all citizens have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Thank You
Comment: The above sentences are from a politician’s grand vision, not all of which may be realised in one term, or even several terms. There will be a gap between vision and delivery, and between targets and performance. There is also a gap between Modi’s hopes and the constitutional structure that reduces his ability to deliver in some areas (can Smart Cities or Swachch Bharat be central initiatives when cities and villages have to implement them, and where states have to own the ideas?)
But here is the ultimate takeout from Modi’s speech: He is about small solutions, steady improvements, and a few bold ideas (like Jan Dhan) that look implementable under his oversight. He is a man in mission mode, but that mission is about getting re-elected in 2019 so that the other parts of his mission can be completed. He is non-ideological, non-doctrinaire in his beliefs – except for his belief in himself as India’s Man of Destiny