Leader of the opposition (Lok Sabha), L K Advani addressed the annual conference of the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) on April 30, 2008, in New Delhi.
He opened his speech highlighting the significance of the confederation. He said that over the years the annual session of the CII has become an important platform for people from the political and business fields to meet together and exchange ideas on issues of common interest concerning the nation.
Advani referred to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's address the previous day, in which he had sought political consensus and help from the industry to fight inflation. Labeling this statement as rhetoric, Advani said: "There is nothing wrong in what the prime minister said. However, apart from telling what the industry should do and what the opposition should do, I wish he had also told the nation what his government is doing to bring the prices of essential commodities down."
Corruption is the foe of pro-poor growth
Advani linked the subject of corruption with his speech's theme -- 'Building India: Making growth inclusive and sustainable'.
He said, "It is my firm belief that corruption is one of the biggest obstacles to inclusive and sustainable growth. Indeed, corruption in governance, especially corruption in high places, results in malignant growth. It leads to moral degradation of politics and society, which cannot be measured in quantifiable terms."
According to him representative of the business community have confided in him about the raging corruption in the government. He accused the UPA ministers of running their ministries like fiefdoms and thereby undermining India's development drive and India's international reputation.
He called upon different sections of the society including the business fraternity to judge the performance of the UPA government over the past four years.
Uncaging India -- the caged tiger
Advani was confident India's growth and development as was seen during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee led government between 1998 and 2004 can be replicated.
He cited a few examples of NDA government's economic reforms that accelerated growth and made it inclusive"
- The NDA government unveiled the ambitious highway construction programme. Because of the Golden Quadrilateral project, number of construction companies capable of executing world-class highway building projects has increased dramatically.
- It has also embarked upon the rural roads development programme. Apart from increasing connectivity, this project also created lot of direct and indirect jobs.
- NDA government carried out reforms in the telecom sector that have made the current expansion of the telecom industry possible.
- It provided crucial policy incentives to the information technology sector and in 2000 set a target of $ 50 billion for software and services exports by 2008.
- The NDA government reinforced elementary education as fundamental right in the Constitution and launched the 'Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan'.
- It also enforced the food security programme -- 'Annapoorna Anna Yojana', under which over one crore poor families started to get a certain amount of rice and wheat at subsidised rates.
After listing the achievements, Advani added, "Yes, we could not achieve all that we wanted to. The progress was slow in some areas. We also made mistakes. But the most important feature about our six years in office is that we made India stronger. We made India stronger in security, stronger in development and stronger, above all, in self-perception.
Ambition of India's youth
He said his party aims at matching the fervour and ambition of the Indian youth. About India's economic growth he said, "Lopsided growth, however high its rate, can never be sustainable. This is the reason why the exclusive talk of 9 per cent GDP growth rate by some people in government or in the business community does not enthuse the general public."
He further added, "Forbes magazine has predicted that India will have more billionaires than any other country in the world by 2017. Frankly, this does not gladden me at all. Rather, I would be delighted if, ten years from now, we are able to eliminate abject poverty from India.
Rejuvenating rural India
Advani said that the most important policy reorientation required is that which would ensure redirection of investment -- both public and private -- into agriculture and the rural economy.
"If we want inclusive and sustainable growth, there is simply no substitute to massive re-industrialisation and rejuvenation of India's countryside, so that people get gainful employment, good living conditions and wealth-generation possibilities in their own villages and in the vicinity," he added.
Advani spoke elaborately on the education sector of the country. He said that the regulatory bodies are stifling the education in India.
He also stressed the importance of 'capacity creation'. "Capacity creation, in which the private sector and philanthropic institutions will need to share the major economic cost of subsequent expansion. If successfully implemented, these measures will ensure that our talented girls and boys are able to have adequate and quality seats in engineering, medicine, management, agriculture, veterinary sciences and scores of new areas that have sprung up in recent years," he said.
He added, "Democratisation of education is the key to democratisation of social and economic growth."
Employability of youth
While discussing the employability issue amongst youth in India, Advani said, "A disconcerting aspect of higher and professional education in India is the mismatch between the needs of our rapidly growing economy and the employability of our educated youth. Nasscom has estimated that only about 25% of fresh graduates in India are employable. This situation must be changed."
Good governance: Key to inclusive growth
Advani presented his concept of inclusive growth through three ideas.
"Firstly, and this is the most important requirement, it is possible if we can ensure good governance at all levels. Simply by adopting good governance reforms and thereby reducing inefficiency and corruption, it is possible to achieve additional 2-3 percentage points of GDP growth."
He further clarified, "But good governance will not only boost GDP growth. It will also boost inclusive and sustainable growth since money will be well-spent to benefit the intended beneficiaries."
He sought ideas and suggestions from the business community on ways to speed up the good governance reforms.
He reasoned security as the second most important idea. "There cannot be sustained economic development in places marred by terrorism, naxalite violence, organised crime and poor law and order," he said.
According to him the third requirement is resources. Advani was happy to contend: "Fortunately, the financial resources available to the government have been rising rapidly. Our tax collection has been exceeding expectations. Our tax-to-GDP ratio is steadily improving."
He also added, "India's savings rate is also steadily rising. Added to this are more than $300 billion of forex reserves, and we can see that resources will not be a constraint for undertaking an ambitious mission of inclusive double-digit GDP growth on a sustainable and long-term basis."
Concluding his perspective on achieving inclusive and sustainable economic growth for building a stronger India, Advani said, "You will agree that this will also unleash the potential for new business opportunities -- small, medium and big -- across new geographical areas and integrating new hitherto-deprived social groups. Thus, India is on the cusp of the greatest, and most inclusive, entrepreneurial revolution in its history. It will be my party's endeavour to making this revolution happen."