NEW DELHI(PTI): Promising reforms that will transform lives, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said the government will not eliminate all subsidies but will rationalise and target them to the needy. He said unnecessary controls and distortions will be eliminated and promised efficiency in allocation of resources as well as creation of opportunities for citizens to progress.
“I am not arguing that all subsidies are good. My point is that there cannot be any ideological position on such matters. We have to be pragmatic. We have to eliminate bad subsidies, whether or not they are called subsidies.
“But some subsidies may be necessary to protect the poor and the needy and give them a fair chance to succeed. Hence my aim is not to eliminate subsidies but to rationalise and target them,” he said addressing the Economic Times Global Business Summit here.
He also took a dig at economists and corporates saying any role for industries is called incentive or subvention while for farmer it is derogatorily called subsidy. “We must ask ourselves whether this difference in language also reflects a difference in our attitude? Why is it that subsidies going to the well-off are portrayed in a positive manner?” he said.
He said the total revenue lost due to incentives to corporate tax payers was over Rs 62,000 crore while dividends and long term capital gains on shares traded on stock exchanges are totally exempt from income tax even though it is not the poor who earn them.
Modi said since it is exempt, it is not even counted in the Rs 62,000 crore. Double Taxation avoidance treaties have in some cases resulted in double non-taxation and this too is not counted in the Rs 62,000 crore.
“Yet these are rarely referred to by those who seek reduction of subsidies.
Perhaps these are seen as incentives for investment. I wonder whether, if the fertiliser subsidy is re-named as ‘incentive for agricultural production’, some experts will view it differently,” he said.
Modi said the universal access to banking through the Jan Dhan Yojana has enabled plugging of huge leakages in subsidies. Subsidies on cooking gas (LPG) are now directly transferred to bank accounts of users, thereby eliminating multiple and bogus connections. Also, 6.5 million people have heeded to his call to give up cooking gas subsidy voluntarily.
“This enables genuine beneficiaries to get what they deserve while eliminating those who are not eligible. This has substantially reduced the subsidy,” he said. Similar experiment is being now started for kerosene.
“There is clear evidence that a large quantity of subsidised kerosene is misused and diverted. We have begun a pilot in 33 districts where kerosene will be sold at market prices. The difference between market price and the subsidised price will be transferred directly to bank accounts of those who are poor,” he said.
This, he said, will eliminate duplicate, non-eligible and bogus consumers and reduce the total subsidy. “We have decided that 75% of the savings from this will be passed on to the states. Thereby, we have encouraged state governments to implement this in all districts,” he said.
Speaking of the pilot done in Chandigarh, he said in April 2014, there were 68,000 beneficiaries using subsidised kerosene in Chandigarh. A campaign was launched to issue gas connections to all eligible families. 10,500 new gas connections were issued.
Kerosene quotas were stopped for 42,000 families who already had gas connections. By March 31, Chandigarh will be declared kerosene-free, he said adding the saving achieved in kerosene consumption through this initiative is 73%. Also, eliminating double counted and ineligible pensioners has led to a reduction of 12% outgo without any harm to the poor.
To check diversion of subsidised urea, the below-market priced nutrient is neem-coated.
Modi said the global economy is going through a period of uncertainty and in a connected world actions of one country affect another. While there is economic stagnation in many parts of the world, India has been the fastest growing large economy during the last four quarters.
It contributed 7.4% of global GDP in purchasing power terms. It contributed 12.5% to global growth, 68% higher than its share. Since the NDA Government took office, growth has increased and inflation has decreased. Foreign investment has increased and the fiscal deficit has decreased. And despite a slow-down in global trade, the balance of payments deficit has also decreased. “FDI in India has increased by 39% in the last 18 months, at a time when global FDI has fallen,” he said.
True reforms, he said, are those which result in transformation in the lives of citizens. “As I have said before, my goal is ‘reform to transform'”. He stressed on improving use of natural and human resources, increasing the efficiency in allocation of resources and creating new opportunities for citizens to progress.
Also, the quality of life of the common citizen has to be increased. “If a government is progressive, and runs an honest and efficient administration, the biggest beneficiaries are the poor. I know from my experience, that poor governance hurts the poor more than it hurts others. Therefore, improved governance is as important as economic reform,” he said.
The Prime Minister said India has committed to reducing its environmental footprint. “We are committed to reducing the emission intensity of our GDP by 33% by 2030 even while growing at a fast pace. For a country which is already at a very low base of per capita emission, this is a very ambitious target,” he said.
By 2030, 40% of India’s electric power capacity will be from non-fossil fuel while also building an additional carbon sink of over 2.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by creating additional forest cover by 2030.
Modi said his government is targeting award of 10,000 km of highway projects this year, a leap from 3,500-km awarded in 2013-14 under the previous UPA regime. On improving opportunities, he said over 200 million unbanked people have been brought under the banking system under the Jan Dhan Yojana and these accounts today have a balance exceeding Rs 30,000 crore. A new and comprehensive programme of crop insurance has been introduced and soil health cards issued to farmers.
“Entrepreneurship is one of India’s traditional strengths. It was sad to see it was neglected in the last few years. ‘Business’ and ‘profits’ had become bad words. We have changed that. We need to value enterprise and hard work, not wealth,” Modi said.
Stating that good governance was crucial, he said, “We have ended the era of high level corruption… We have ended political interference and crony capitalism in nationalised banks.” India, he said, suffers from an excess of old and unnecessary laws which obstruct people and businesses.
“We began the exercise of identifying unnecessary laws and repealing them. 1,827 Central laws have been identified for repeal. Out of these, 125 have already been repealed. Bills for repealing another 758 have been passed by the Lok Sabha and are awaiting the approval of the Upper House,” he said.
The benefits of improved governance and reduced corruption are lasting and profound, he said.
“We inherited a struggling economy, just recovering from a currency crisis. In less than two years, we have taken India to the top of global league tables of foreign investment and growth,” he said. Modi said there was a need to improve the use of natural and human resources. “This means increasing the efficiency in allocation of resources. It means greater managerial efficiency. It means removing unnecessary controls and distortions.”