India set for record economic growth, says PM in Independence Day speech

India is getting multi-trillion dollar investments and its growth will guide the global economy, he says.

india Updated: Aug 15, 2018 21:27 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Modi,Modi Independence Day speech
Prime Minister Narendra Modi gives his Independence Day speech at Red Fort in New Delhi on August 15.(Video grab)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday took credit for India becoming the world’s sixth largest economy and said the country would power global growth over the next three decades.

Economic and social policies and structural reforms implemented by his National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government had pulled 50 million people out of poverty in the last two years alone, Modi said in his Independence Day speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort.

“A sleeping elephant has started running,” Modi said, echoing a recent assessment by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

With a general election due next year, Modi, in his speech, compared the performance of his government with the economic conditions prevailing in 2013, a year before he assumed office, when India was counted among the so-called “Fragile Five” economies because of high inflation and a current account deficit that pressured the rupee into a free fall.

India has become the world’s sixth largest economy by overtaking France, according to World Bank data from last month. The country’s gross domestic product was estimated at $2.597 trillion, compared to France’s $2.582 trillion.India only trails the US,China, Japan ,Germany and the UK.

“India is feeling the change of these four years. Earlier, international institutions used to see India as a risk. Now they are saying India’s reform measures are going to strengthen its fundamentals. From Fragile Five, we have become a multi-billion-dollar investment destination,” Modi said.

Fragile Five was a term coined by a Morgan Stanley analyst in 2013 to collectively describe India, Indonesia, Brazil, South Africa and Turkey when the rupee, together with the currencies of the other four, plunged amid turmoil in emerging market economies. The rupee is again under pressure after contagion spread from Turkey, engaged in a trade war with the US, to other emerging markets.

The IMF’s chief for India Ranil Salgado had recently said that India was “an elephant that has started running”, with the economy projected to grow 7.3% in 2018-19.

“India is now the land of reform, perform and transform. We are poised for record economic growth,” Modi said.

But the growth wouldn’t come at the cost of welfare, he stressed. Modi said healthcare expenses often tended to push people deeper into poverty: “It is important to ensure that we free the poor of India from poverty due to which they cannot afford healthcare.”

Read | 10 key points from PM Modi’s Independence Day speech

He announced that the NDA government would launch the “Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Abhiyaan” (people’s health programme) on September 25 to ensure that “the poor of India get proper access to good quality and affordable healthcare”. The healthcare initiatives will reach 500 million Indians, he said.

In a year that has seen farmers stage protests in many states against unremunerative prices for their produce, Modi said his government was taking a “Beej Se Bazaar Tak” (from seed to market) approach in aiding farmers. He reiterated his government’s resolve to double farmers’ incomes by 2022. He also said his government had taken a bold step to increase minimum support price for crops to 1.5 times the cost to production.

“Today, our entire focus is on bringing modernisation to agriculture. We have a dream of doubling farmers’ income by the time India celebrates its 75th Independence Day. Many people may doubt this, but this is our target. We have for the first time adopted an agriculture export policy.”

The PM frequently compared his government’s “speedy” performance with that achieved under the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance regime. “By the speed with which things were being done in 2013, it would take taken probably more than 100 years to give cooking gas cylinders to our poor mothers,” he said. “If we would have laid optical fibres for internet connectivity with the speed of 2013, it would have taken generations.”

He added: “Look at the big canvas, the country is marching ahead with new energy. Red tape has been replaced by red carpet (to investors).”

First Published: Aug 15, 2018 08:57 IST