Union minister Piyush Goyal was the guest at Express Adda held at Royal Western India Turf Club, Pune, last week . In conversation with The Indian Express National Opinion Editor Vandita Mishra and Anant Goenka, Executive Director, The Express Group, Goyal spoke about going digital, transparency in political finance and making development inclusive
Somebody may choose to call it organised loot, but if R18,6000 crore lost in the Coalgate scam or R17,6000 crore lost in the 2G scam and other scams like the Common Wealth Games, and AugustaWestland were not organised loot, then I don’t know what was. Prime Minister Modi has come to this decision with a great deal of thought and with a commitment to cleanse Indian society of black money, corruption, and dangers of counterfeit notes, which fuel terrorism and drug cartels. It is probably the largest action taken in the history of mankind. One of the biggest impact that we hope this move will have is on the mindset of people. The chalta hai approach has to change some day. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a nation as large as India to think differently, to try and leave behind a legacy for the youth of India, which is different from the one we inherited. We would like the colour of currency to be one. We would like the transactions to be in one currency, one legal format.
On the expected drop in the growth of GDP
In the short run, there will be a drop. Some of the things that amazed us was that two-wheeler and car sales have dropped. I can’t imagine that cars and two-wheelers were also being sold in cash or were being sold with illegitimate money. That fall in the sale is what we call short-term pain. But, if we move towards an economy where everybody starts buying two-wheelers, three-wheelers, and four-wheelers with honest money, that’s the change we are trying to bring. I think in the long-term, we can clearly see lower inflation, lower interest rates beat improved investment climate. A lot of international foreign firms would love to come to a country where business is done honestly.
On the transition to a cashless economy
When you are talking about a cashless society, you are aiming at one which is near cashless. Currently in India, we have about 71 crore debit cards and 26 million credit cards. Over 450 million of them are used only for withdrawing cash from an ATM. Hardly 45-50 million are used for transacting through that debit card. It’s an unfortunate situation. Each cash transaction costs R55 to R70. So if we see nation as a whole, there is a potential of R20,000-plus crore saving if we are able to convert a large part of our transactions to digital. Lastly, honest payment of taxes — a society where traders, businessmen, industrialists, everybody has equal opportunity. So your ability to succeed in a competitive world is not judged by how much tax you evade but is determined by your service quality, your product quality. I think that’s the kind of society digital payments can bring about.
Transcribed by Garima Mishra and Partha Sarthi Biswas
Photos by Atul Horizon, Pavan Khengre, Sandeep Daundkar, Amit Ruke