Signalling a “shift of gears” in steering the economy towards double-digit growth, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said here on Friday that he was not happy with India just being the fastest growing economy.
“India has the potential to achieve a double-digit growth rate,” he said at a press conference as the Modi government completes one year in office.
Sharing fresh data on economic indicators to show the economy was picking up, Mr. Jaitley said tax collections improved during April. Bad loans came off their peak levels, though only slightly, to 5.2 per cent during the three-month period ended March. “For infrastructure, be it railways or roads, we have now reached that next level of challenges where our resources are available in abundance and our capacity to spend will have to increase … I have given money to them … they cannot have stalled projects anymore now.”
Public investments in irrigation, rural infrastructure to go up
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said here on Friday that his focus now would be on public investments in irrigation and rural infrastructure.
At a press conference here, he denied that the government was pro-corporate and favoured crony capitalism. It was, in fact, pro-development and pro-growth.
On the criticism of the government, especially in the foreign media, he said: “The restlessness we see is because the country wants to grow even faster … the government has a clear road map for the coming year, and it is coherent and transparent and it is decisive even in the face of obstructionism … our decision-making is fast, principles-and-market-led and with minimum ministerial discretion.”
“Expectations from the Modi government were realistic but of the Opposition were unrealistic,” he said.
Without naming the Congress, Mr. Jaitley said: “The nation is not ready to accept slow decision-making … When we obstruct, we must realise that it is eventually that yearning for 10 per cent that we are obstructing … I have no hesitation in saying the principal Opposition party has positioned itself against growth and development … They must reconsider their position in terms of the damage they can do.”
He said a very important highlight of the government had been a “corruption-free administration”.
However, Mr. Jaitley did not provide clarity on the prevailing uncertainty over the likely policy of the Modi government on foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail. The BJP’s stated position was that it remained opposed to the previous government’s decision of opening up the sector.
When the previous UPA government had announced its decision, the BJP had said that if voted to power, it would rescind the policy. After joining office, however, the Modi government had maintained ambiguity by refusing to clarify whether it plans to retain or rescind the policy.
“The BJP’s position on FDI in multi-brand retail is known... the previous government’s decision on it continues… This is our official position,” he said.