In perhaps his strongest defence of handling of the economy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his government steered the Indian economy out of “unbelievable” decay left by an “economist prime minister and a ‘know-it-all’ finance minister”.
India is now the fastest growing large economy of the world with strong fundamentals to propel further growth, PM Modi added.
Rejecting criticism of jobless growth, he asked that if state after state is creating good number of jobs, how can the Centre be creating joblessness?
He said problems in banks were identified in 2014 itself and they were freed from political interference in giving loans.
The government brought the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code to ensure defaulters lose their companies, the Prime Minister added.
In an interview to Swarajya magazine, he said when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government came to power, the state of the economy was much worse than expected.
“Things were terrible. Even the budget figures were suspicious,” he said.
PM Modi said he chose ‘rashtraneeti’ (putting the interests of India first) over ‘rajneeti’ (political considerations) in not bringing out a white paper on the state of the economy when his government came to power.
While playing politics on the state of the economy in 2014 would have been extremely simple and politically advantageous, the government thought reforms were needed and “we preferred to think of ‘India First’.”
“We did not want to push the issues under the carpet, but we were more interested in addressing the issue. We focused on reforming, strengthening and transforming the Indian economy,” he said.
Stating that the details about the “decay in the Indian economy were unbelievable” with a potential to stir a crisis “under an ‘economist’ prime minister and a ‘know-it-all’ finance minister”, he said India was in the Fragile Five economies of the world and “there were several landmines laid in various sectors.”
“We accepted this uncomfortable truth and hit the ground running from the very first day to stabilise things so that the Indian economy can be strengthened for the long haul. We tolerated a number of political allegations, we accepted political damage but ensured no damage to our country,” he said, adding India is now the fastest growing large economy with strong fundamentals to propel further growth.
Foreign investment is at an all-time high, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) has revolutionised the tax regime and India is an easier place to do business in than ever before, he said.
Asked about lack of jobs in the economy, he said the issue at hand is more to do with a lack of data on jobs.
“Our opponents will naturally exploit this opportunity to paint a picture of their choice and blame us. I don’t blame our opponents for blaming us on the issue of jobs, after all no one has an accurate data on jobs. Our traditional matrix of measuring jobs is simply not good enough to measure new jobs in the new economy of New India,” he said.
He reeled out data on jobs being created at 3 lakh village-level common service centres, 15,000 start-ups, registration of 48 lakh new enterprises and in the construction of houses, railways and highways. Prime Minister Modi said 41 lakh formal jobs were created from September 2017 to April 2017 as reflected in Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) payroll data.
“There is a lack of consistency in the political debate around job creation. We have data put out by state governments on employment. For example, the previous Karnataka government claimed to have created 53 lakh jobs. The West Bengal government said it created 68 lakh jobs in the last term. Now, if states are all creating good numbers of jobs, is it possible that the country is not creating jobs? Is it possible that states are creating jobs but the Centre is creating joblessness?” he asked.
The Prime Minister said his government was working on doubling farmers’ income by 2022 by decreasing input costs, ensuring proper prices for the produce, increasing productivity and creating more avenues for income generation.
“The previous government allocated INR 1.21 lakh crore to agriculture while we have allocated INR 2.12 lakh crore in the five-year period. But unlike them, our initiatives do not stay limited to the files, but enter the field,” he said, citing crop insurance schemes, higher minimum support price, soil health card and neem-coated urea as the cornerstone of his government’s rural focus.