Now, Gates has ‘no opinion’ on demonetisation

He had earlier said it was an important step towards a more transparent economy

Updated - November 18, 2016 01:01 am IST

Published - November 17, 2016 01:10 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A day after he described Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s November 8 decision to withdraw 500 and 1,000 rupee notes from circulation as a “bold move”, billionaire businessman and philanthropist Bill Gates said on Thursday he had “no opinion” on the issue.

In a NITI Aayog lecture on Wednesday, Mr. Gates described Mr. Modi’s decision as an “important step” to move away from a “shadow economy to an even more transparent economy”.

To a specific question from The Hindu on Thursday at a select media roundtable on whether he supported demonetisation, Mr. Gates stated that he had “no opinion” on the issue.

Mr. Gates, however, predicted that India would go digital very rapidly and pointed to the process in countries like Kenya, where his foundation had worked. Government payments alone justified the digital path in India, he stressed.

When a reporter pointed out that India was a cash dependent economy, Mr. Gates responded: “That’s true”. He also felt that the Aadhaar, or India’s identity card system, was a “fantastic thing”.

In his Wednesday lecture, Mr. Gates said digital transactions would rise dramatically in India. “I think in the next several years India will become the most digitised economy. Not just by size but percentage as well.”

Mr. Gates was of the view that Aadhaar had not been attempted anywhere in the world, including in rich countries. “But now you have something that is going to underlie all your digital systems, whether it’s banking, tax payments, tracking healthcare records.”

On the reported decline in healthcare spending by the government, Mr. Gates said the spending had been flat. Advocating an increase in healthcare spending, he said in the end this was a political question and he wasn’t a voter in India.

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