On January 16, Prime Minister Modi addressed the ‘Economic Times Global Summit’. The speech he delivered there provides glimpses of his wordview and his overall vision for India on economics, reforms and society. Here are five points that stood out as representatives of that.
1.”What we need is a well targeted system of subsidy delivery”
The Prime Minister has stressed at multiple fora that the priority of his government is the elimination of poverty in India, not just its alleviation. (His Independence Day speech and his speech to the BJP Parliamentary Party after the Lok Sabha elections) In his speech, the PM described his idea for poverty elimination through policies specifically targeted at generating skill-based employment:
“Destiny has favoured me to serve this great nation. Mahatma Gandhi said that we should not rest until we “wipe every tear from every eye”. Elimination of poverty is fundamental to me. This is at the core of my understanding of cohesive growth. To translate this vision into the reality of a New Age India, we must be clear about our economic goals and objectives.
The government must nurture an eco-system:
– where the economy is primed for growth; and growth promotes all-round development;
– where development is employment-generating; and employment is enabled by skills;
– where skills are synced with production; and production is benchmarked to quality;
– where quality meets global standards; and meeting global standards drives prosperity”
Later on in his address, he stressed that the much-talked about reforms are not end in themselves, and neither the final goal of the government.
“Reforms are not an end in itself. Reforms must have a concrete objective. The objective must be to improve the welfare of the people. Approaches may be many. But the goal is one.“
At another point in the speech he cautions that reforms will not be undertaken only for the sake of them and that he believed in subsidies for the poor.
“At the same time, we need to take care of the poor, deprived and left behind sections of society.
I believe that subsidies are needed for them. What we need is a well targeted system of subsidy delivery. We need to cut subsidy leakages, not subsidies themselves.
Wastage, as I said earlier, must be removed in subsidies. The target group should be clearly identified and the subsidies should be well delivered. The ultimate objective of subsidies should be to empower the poor, to break the cycle of poverty, and become foot-soldiers in our war on poverty.”
2. “Government Has No Business To Be In Business”
The Prime Minister returned to his most famous phrase in his address:
“I have often called for Minimum Government Maximum Governance. This is not a slogan. This is an important principle to transform India.
Government systems suffer from two weaknesses. They are complex. And they are slow.
In life, people go on a चारधामयात्रा (chaar dham yatra) to get मोक्ष (moksha). In government, a file has to go to छत्तीसधाम (chattees dham), and yet not get मोक्ष (moksha)!
We need to change this. Our systems need to be made sharp, effective, fast and flexible. This requires simplification of processes and having trust in citizens. This needs a Policy Driven State.
What is Maximum Governance, Minimum Government? It means government has no business to be in business. There are many parts of the economy where the private sector will do better and deliver better. In 20 years of liberalisation, we have not changed a command and control mindset. We think it is okay for government to meddle in the working of firms. This must change. But this is not a call for anarchy.
First, we need to focus government upon the things that are required of the State. Second, we need to achieve competence in government so that the State delivers on the things it sets out to do.”
3. “I believe in speed”
According to the Prime Minister, a pressing need of our times is to make the government structure adapt to the changing times. In pursuance of this, he said:
“..we require competent, efficient and non-corrupt arms of government. We in government, must constantly ask the question: How much money am I spending, and what outcomes am I getting in return? For this, government agencies have to be improved to become competent. This requires rewriting some laws. Laws are the DNA of government. They must evolve with time.”
He returns to the point later in the speech:
“Improvement in governance is a continuous process. We are making changes wherever acts, rules and procedures are not in tune with needs. We are cutting down on multiple clearances that choke investment. Our complex tax system is crying for reform, which we have initiated. I believe in speed. I will push through change at a fast pace. You will appreciate this in times to come.”
4. “Why do we need the State?”
Along with his call for minimum government and maximum governance, the PM chose to articulate what in his view was the role of the state:
“Why do we need the State? There are 5 main components:
– The first is public goods such as defence, police, and judiciary.
– The second is externalities which hurt others, such as pollution. For this, we need a regulatory system.
– The third is market power; where monopolies need controls
– The fourth is information gaps; where you need someone to ensure that medicines are genuine and so on.
– Last, we need a well designed welfare and subsidy mechanism to ensure that the bottom of society is protected from deprivation. This specially includes education and healthcare.”
These are five places where we require government.
5. “We need a society and economy which complement each other.”
Mr.Modi highlighted in his speech that the government is not blindly pursuing growth statistics. The numbers are only part of the larger agenda of the government. Even when mentioning GST and banking reforms, the Prime Minister highlighted the larger motive behind them:
“We have always debated about social unity, national unity and so on. But we have never debated about financial unity. About bringing everyone into the financial system. This is one cause which both capitalists and socialists agree on. What, my friends, can be a bigger reform?”
Later in the address, he said:
“Economic development cannot take a nation forward on its own.
Development has many dimensions. While on one hand we need higher incomes, we also need a society which is cohesive. Which balances the stress and strain of a modern economy.
History is witness to the rise and fall of nations. Even now, many countries have become rich in an economic sense, but are poor in a social sense. Their family systems, value systems, social networks and other elements which hold a society together have broken.
We should not go down that path. We need a society and economy which complement each other. That is the only way for a nation to go forward.
Further, development seems to have become the agenda only of government. It is seen as a scheme. That should not be the case.
Development should be everyone’s agenda. It should be a people’s movement.”
Read the Prime Minister’s full speech here. We have also embedded the video below
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