Impatient with “mere incremental progress”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday called for the country’s rapid metamorphosis, to be enabled by radical changes in governance.
“We have to change laws, eliminate unnecessary procedures, speed up processes and adopt technology. We cannot march through the 21st century with the administrative systems of the 19th century,” he said, at the first “Transforming India” lecture organised by the NITI Aayog here. “My vision for India is rapid transformation, not gradual evolution,” he declared.
The PM’s assertion is noted for its candour: Though his government has done a fair bit to improve administration, cut red tape and backlogs, ease doing business and expedite delivery of services, it was still seen to be unleashing increment reforms rather than the wholesale changes required to lift the country out of its many problems including sticking poverty.
Modi, who as prime minister has been on overseas tours rather frequently, also underlined the need for heeding “ideas from outside”, Recalling his efforts to tap ideas from inside, he said: “The next step is to bring in ideas from outside. Culturally, Indians have always been receptive to ideas from elsewhere.”
He added: “We will draw the best from the wisdom and knowledge of eminent persons who changed or influenced change in the lives of many, to make their nation a better place on the planet.” Each country, he said, has its own experiences, resources and strengths. “
Thirty years ago, a country might have been able to look inward and find its own solutions. Today, countries are interdependent and interconnected. No country can afford any longer to develop in isolation. Every country has to benchmark its activities to global standards, or else fall behind,” he said, with his full Cabinet, top bureaucrats and Singapore deputy prime minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam in attendance.
The Modi government, which is approaching the halfway mark of its term, has taken a number of steps to improve the environment for investors at both the national and state levels.
It scrapped several outdated laws, made setting up of businesses easier, brought in a new bankruptcy code to ease exists, made tax administration less intrusive, fast-tracked clearances, and pushed projects that had long been in limbo.
On the administrative side, it pushed financial inclusion and aggressively implemented the direct benefit transfer scheme to deliver subsidies and other doles. Yet, the investment climate hasn’t improved much, and economic data haven’t conclusively suggested a definite acceleration in growth.