When big-ticket policy reforms get stuck in political and legislative quicksands, it is common sense which pushes governance ahead. This was one of the key messages delivered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his inaugural address at the 13th Hindustan Times Leadership summit, the theme of which was ‘Can India be a bright spot in the world?’ In the past few months, the government has often faced the criticism that reforms are not moving ahead fast enough. Mr Modi felt that there is no one right way to economic progress, rather results can come from methods which may not be conventional, but are nevertheless effective. Many of the accomplishments of the government have not got star billing in the media but according to the prime minister, they have begun to make a dent in problems which have crippled the country for years.
In what was a defence of his government’s reform record, he spoke of the many measures undertaken, some of which may have fallen through the cracks of public consciousness, among them the Rs 45,000 crore potential saving by the simple act of replacing existing bulbs with power-saving LEDs. The devolution of power under the federal structure means that New Delhi is not considered a donor to the states. This, he said, means that how they spend their money is the prerogative of the states. Noting the involvement of people in the growth story, Mr Modi pointed out the manner in which 4 million people had voluntarily given up their gas subsidy. The savings from this were used to benefit the people. Seeking to defuse the often tense stand-off between the government and the opposition parties, he spoke of how the winter session of Parliament had been productive so far.
India being a bright spot came from its economic growth figures which are outstripping others as the world economy slows down. To those who equate reforms with disinvestment alone, Mr Modi made it a point to say that the way forward should be corporatisation. He has sought to cut down subsidies on a number of items, rationalised taxes and cut down on public spending. But with the Goods and Services Tax legislation, considered crucial to economic growth, getting bogged down, his government has got the short end of the stick on more than one occasion. The challenges before the government are huge, but as Mr Modi put it, several far-reaching initiatives are underway and he was optimistic his government would change the atmosphere from the earlier one of disappointment to hope. This is buttressed by his assertion that despite setbacks, India is moving in the right direction.