This was not the usual Modi speech. It had no dramatic pauses, no wave of the hand, and no humour. What it had was a business-like approach that bordered on grim. That’s how Prime Minister Modi, over 45 rapid-fire minutes on Monday evening, responded to his critics — with facts and statistics, in English.
Dressed in pristine white, Modi said it was pluck over luck, and implementation over “mere announcements of so-called reforms policies” for his government. That’s what had brought about an “unusual situation” in which India is on top of global economic growth, with low inflation and low current account deficit.
“Obviously there are some who find that difficult to digest and come up with imaginative and fanciful ideas to belittle that achievement,” Modi said at an event in New Delhi organised by news agency Bloomberg. “The fact is that India’s economic success is the hard-won result of prudence, sound policy and effective management.”
In the nearly two years that Modi has been Prime Minister, many economic indicators have risen, though exports have been falling. His opponents — politicians and economists — say his government got lucky with the incessant slide in oil prices. Since India is a huge importer of oil, the price fall has been a windfall.
Modi pointed out that the fall in oil prices was much steeper when the UPA government was in power. Then there are other countries that depend on imported oil, but not all are growing like India.
According to Modi, his government has been quite unlucky, as it grapples with a terrible slowdown in the global economy and trade. Yet, it has been able to bring the fiscal deficit down to the second lowest in 40 years while increasing capital expenditure and giving a much larger share of tax revenue to states.
“Some remain confused and say the growth rate does not feel right,” Modi said. To help the confused, he pointed to a string of facts: higher credit offtake, increased flow of funds to industry, more rating upgrades than downgrades for companies, increase in manufacturing, new laws for real estate, movement in stalled projects, more productive approach to old measures like the food security and rural job schemes, and others.
The banks, he said, had moved steadfastly to recover money from defaulters. “Perhaps noise from this section has influenced the media.”
That was the only departure from the all-business manner of the speech. But it was delivered like any other fact or statistic.