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Rs 100 lakh crores will be invested in infrastructure: PM in I-Day speech

August 15, 2019 16:10 IST

The prime minister sought to allay slowdown concerns saying the fundamentals of the economy are strong, with low inflation and a potential to boost exports.

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves at the crowd during 73rd Independence Day function at the Red Fort in New Delhi. Photograph: Arun Sharma/PTI Photo

Amid a widespread slowdown in the economy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday committed to a five-year vision of investment-led growth, saying a massive Rs 100 lakh crore will be spent on developing infrastructure that will help in achieving the target of $5 trillion economy.

In a bid to reassure the India Inc, he said wealth creators are the country's wealth and should not be looked at with suspicion.

Exuding confidence of achieving the target of $5 trillion economy, Modi in his address to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort in New Delhi on the 73rd Independence Day, said fundamentals of the economy are strong and a stable government coupled with predictable policies can become a catalyst including in attracting other nations to invest in India.

 

"We are targeting a trillion economy. Many think it is difficult. But if we don't do difficult things how will we progress?" he asked.

"It took 70 years to reach $2 trillion economy size, and in the last one year alone we added $1 trillion. And this gives us confidence that in the next 5 years, we can take it towards $5 trillion," the prime minister said.

This goal can be achieved through investing more, particularly, in infrastructure, Modi added.

"We have decided to invest Rs 100 lakh crore in developing world-class infrastructure in the country. This investment will be in building roads, railways, airports, ports, hospitals and educational institutions," he said.

The country's economic growth accelerated in the first few years of Modi 1.0 regime, even breaching 8 per cent in 2016 and 2017, and the government was able to push through major reforms, including the introduction of a harmonised goods and services tax.

But the growth rate has since then slowed to a five-year low of 5.8 per cent in January-March 2019, consumer confidence has waned and foreign direct investment has plateaued.

The auto sector is facing the worst crisis in about 20 years and reports suggest job losses in thousands. In the real estate sector, the number of unsold homes has increased while fast-moving consumer goods companies have reported a decline in volume growth and lending to job-creating MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) by banks has actually slipped. When the government needs more money, tax collection has grown by just 1.4 per cent.

Entrepreneurs have voiced frustrations with regulation and the high cost of capital.

The prime minister, however, sought to allay concerns saying the fundamentals of the economy are strong, with low inflation and a potential to boost exports.

For entrepreneurs and businessmen, he said wealth creators must be respected and they should not be seen with suspicion.

"Let us never see wealth creators with suspicion. Only when wealth is created, wealth will be distributed," he said. "Wealth creation is absolutely essential. Those who create wealth are India's wealth and we respect them."

This is the third time in one year that Modi has stood up for corporates.

In July last year, Modi had stated that he was not scared to be seen with industrialists as his conscience was clear and that they too had contributed to the development of the country. In October 2018, he had stated that he does not believe in the culture of criticising the industry. Corporates, he believes, are doing exemplary social work alongside their business.

He said the world is eager to trade with India. "Over the years we watched people making India a market (for their products). We too should reach the markets of the world. Why can't every district be an export hub?... If we aim for the global markets and make local products attractive, it will give employment to our youth."

He saw tourism as a potential for not just propelling the local economy but also for creating jobs.

As many as 100 new tourist destinations should be developed while the North East becoming a major tourist hub, he said adding citizens should visit at least 15 tourist destinations within the country by 2022, which will help in expansion of economic activities.

The GST, which subsumed nearly one-and-a-half dozen central and state taxes, brought to life the dream of 'One Nation, One Tax' and the country has also achieved 'One Nation, One Grid' in the energy sector while attempt is being made for 'One Nation, One Mobility Card' for seamless travel across the country, he said.

Modi said he has scrapped obsolete laws to make it easier to do business in the country and is now targeting a position in top 50 nations on the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business ranking.

He, however, wanted businesses to shun cash and go accept only digital payments in an attempt to bring transparency and root out black money.

Shops, he said, should put up signs of 'Digital Payment ko haan, nakad ko na' (Yes to digital payment, no to cash).

The prime minister said the farm sector continues to be a priority for his government, which has increased cash payout to farmers to Rs 90,000 crore a year.

"Our focus is farmers. Their income needs to be doubled. They need to be provided with the optimum price for their produce. Our farmers also need to be taken to the international markets," he said.

But, Modi said he wants farmers to reduce the use of chemical fertilisers by 30-40 per cent to save the mother earth from degradation.

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