Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday said the whole debate over the political cost of economic reforms has dissipated with the benefits reaching the deprived sections of society.
He also said the outcome of demonetisation has proved critics wrong as neither the GDP nor agricultural output suffered.
Appreciating the rural masses for being flexible in adapting to technologies, the Finance Minister said, “One great advantage of this whole exercise (demonetisation) was the movement towards digitisation. And movement towards digitisation itself has created newer technologies, newer form of electronic modes of payments.”
Noting that there has been a debate going on for the last 26 years as to whether economic reforms have a political cost, he said it is being realised that reforms are benefiting rural population and have-nots.
“I think one of the learning experiences has been that the advantage of that reform will reach the rural people. That’s the fundamental change taking place today,” he said while dedicating 100 ICICI ‘digital villages’ to the nation.
“The advantages of the additional resources available with the state and of the entire economic activity also is reaching the village itself and therefore when that segment of society feels that they have been included in the process, the whole debate that the reform has political cost itself is dissipating,” he said.
On demonetisation, the Finance Minister said India proved critics wrong as there was no “2% dip in GDP”.
“There was no disappearance of demand. There was no agrarian crisis. In fact, the agriculture sowing went up. And suddenly you found the whole debate in this country taking a new turn. I am personally very glad that some obsolete ideas are clashing with some newer ones,” he said.
Citing an example, he said, “If somebody would say that electronic (voting) machines are terrible and we must go back to paper, we will eventually (know) what the conclusion of this debate is going to be. Or that cash currency is superior to any form of digitisation or for that matter arbitrary selection of individual is better than unique identity.”
It would not be hard to guess who eventually will be the winner in this argument, he added without elaborating.
On the ICICI Bank initiative, Jaitley expressed hope that many other banks will emulate this experience.
ICICI Bank has created 100 ‘digital villages’ across the country.
The project, which also includes imparting skill training and providing credit linkages to people living there, was taken up by the bank after noticing that minimum inconvenience was caused to people living in a model ‘digital village’ in Gujarat during the demonetisation period.