The new government led by Narendra Modi has outlined a series of reforms and measures in its legislative agenda which include encouraging foreign investment, speeding up approvals for major projects and introduction of general sales tax (GST), among others, to help revive the flagging economy.
While addressing the first joint parliamentary session after the election, President Pranab Mukherjee highlighted the Modi government's agenda which stated that India's economy faced extremely difficult times, inflation was "unacceptably" high, and putting the Indian economy back on the track would be the new government's paramount priority.
“We will work together to usher our economy into a high growth path, rein in inflation, reignite the investment cycle, accelerate job creation and restore the confidence of the domestic as well as international community in our economy," Mukherjee said in his address on Monday.
The government promises to create a policy environment which is predictable, transparent and fair, and to embark on rationalisation and simplification of the tax regime to make it non-adversarial and conducive to investment, enterprise and growth.
He said the new government will follow a policy of encouraging investments, including through FDI; which will be allowed in sectors that help create jobs and assets.
The speech by the President also included a number of ambitious policy goals, which had been laid out in the election manifesto of Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) such as creating 100 smart cities and high speed trains among others.
Containing food inflation will be the topmost priority for the government and there would be an emphasis on improving the supply side of various agro and agro-based products. It will reform the Public Distribution System and in light of the possibility of a subnormal monsoon this year will prepare a contingency plan.
It will increase investment in agriculture, both public and private, especially in agri-infrastructure. Government will address issues pertaining to pricing and procurement of agricultural produce, crop insurance and post-harvest management. It will incentivise the setting up of food processing industries and existing cooperative sector laws will be reviewed to remove anomalies and lacunae.
It will complete the long pending irrigation projects on priority and launch the ‘Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana’ and popularise micro irrigation.
The government will strategically promote labour-intensive manufacturing; employment opportunities will also be expanded by promoting tourism and agro-based industries. It will also transform employment exchanges into career centres.
The government also seeks to set up investment and industrial regions, particularly along the dedicated freight corridors and industrial corridors spanning the country and will strive to move towards a single-window system of clearances both at the centre and at the states through a hub-spoke model.
It will simplify procedures and strengthen trade infrastructure to reduce transaction time and costs. It will also set up a task force to review and revive the MSME sector.
It wants to chalk out an ambitious infrastructure development programme to be implemented in 10 years wherein a fast-track, investment friendly and predictable PPP mechanism will be put in place. Modernisation and revamping of railways is on top of the infrastructure agenda. It will also launch a Diamond Quadrilateral project of high speed trains and a network of freight corridors with specialised agri-rail networks for perishable agricultural products. Low cost airports will be developed to promote air connectivity to smaller towns and the government will evolve a model of port-led development. It also strives to string together the Sagar Mala project to connect the ports with the hinterland through road and rail.
The government plans to set up Massive Open Online Courses and virtual classrooms and will formulate a National Education Policy aimed at meeting the challenges posed by lack of quality, research and innovation in educational institutions. We will set up IITs and IIMs in every state and in order to empower school teachers and students, a national e-library will be established.
It will strive to provide Wi-Fi zones in critical public areas in the next five years and roll out broad band highway to reach every village and make all schools e-enabled in a phased manner. Social media will be used as a tool for participative governance, directly engaging the people in policy making and administration.
The government will also launch a national mission “e-Bhasha” that will develop digital vernacular content and disseminate classic literature in different languages.
It will initiate a mission mode project to create 50 tourist circuits that are built around specific themes.
(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)