The government didn’t have enough time to prepare the logistical groundwork before scrapping Rs 1000 and Rs 500 notes in order to maintain the secrecy of a move that aims to flush out illegal cash from the economy, power minister Piyush Goyal said on Saturday.
Speaking on the second day of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, Goyal defended the government’s decision to recall the high-value bills, saying the people of India had shown tremendous support for the move that had “changed mindsets”.
“This decision will have a long-lasting impact on the economy. It makes the honest feel respected for the first time,” he said.
- Govt didn’t have enough time to prepare logistical groundwork before scrapping high-denomination notes
- Demonetisation will have a long-lasting impact on economy
- People have shown support for the move
Since the demonetisation decision was announced three weeks ago, millions of people have lined up outside banks and ATMs and opposition parties have attacked the government for a move that they say has hurt the poor, farmers and small traders.
But Goyal said people were with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and also defended a series of changes in bank withdrawal and exchange norms. “We don’t claim everything we do is right the first time. We acknowledge it and take steps to mitigate it,” Goyal said. The revision of norms has been criticised as proof of poor planning by the administration.
The power minister went on to divulge that apart from Modi and finance minister Arun Jaitley, no one knew about the move to ban high-denomination notes.
“I had no idea that such a big move is going to be announced when I went for the cabinet meeting. The finance minister looked at me and smirked. That’s when I realised something is on,” Goyal said talking about the cabinet meeting on November 8, just hours before Modi announced the demonetisation move on live national television.
Goyal was also critical of economists – including former prime minister Manmohan Singh who called the move “organised loot” – who have said the demonetisation move will harm the poor and hurt economic growth
“I wonder what was the coal scam? An organised loot? What was the 2G scam? Compulsions of coalition politics?” Goyal said, taking a dig at Singh.
While elaborating about India’s attractiveness as an investment destination, Goyal was optimistic. He said: “India today is the world’s largest investment opportunity in the energy sector. I envisage a trillion dollars coming in to the energy sector in every aspect of the sector”.
Goyal also elaborated on the government’s renewable energy push, saying India was committed to significantly reducing its carbon footprint as part of its Paris Climate Accord pledge.
And taking a lead on this mission is Goyal’s ministry of renewable energy. The government has set an ambitious target of setting up 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022.
“Solar is a major focus. From 2500 MW in 2014, installed renewable energy is now 8500 MW. We have done three times in two years of what was done in the past many decades,” said Goyal.
“It is the responsibility of the developed world to support India. We hope the West will live up to their word.”
For live coverage of HT Leadership Summit, click here