By Karthik Shankar:
Modi’s first year in office has attracted a lot of mixed reactions in the media to counter the government’s glowing review of itself. Even as someone who has been critical of Modi, I can recognise several of his achievements.
1) Desi-Videshi Connection
People like Rahul Gandhi have criticised Modi for what they claim amounts to gallivanting around foreign countries at the state’s expense. However what Modi is pulling off is akin to a diplomatic coup. Foreign investments depend as much on lack of bureaucratic hurdles as on good PR, and Modi has kick-started international relations by visiting the U.S, Japan, China and France among others. These warmer ties have come with billions of dollars in foreign investment commitments like $41 billion from the U.S and $2 billion from France.
2) Bye-Bye Subsidy
When the government deregulated diesel and natural gas prices, it took one of the boldest steps for our economy since the 1991 reforms. As of last March, India’s fuel subsidy bill was $11 billion. Easing the burden on the government reduced our fiscal deficit and brought down inflation.
3) Mere Paas Bank Account Hai
In a country where the poor don’t have much access to finances, Modi’s Jan Dhan Yojana was a rousing success. Although 58% of the accounts are still inactive, giving 115 million people, mostly from the country’s poorest, access to the regulated financial system will no doubt pay rich dividends over the long run.
4) FDI Padhaaro Mare Desh
Signalling a shift from the previous government’s allergy to FDI, the Modi-led government has allowed 100% FDI in 17 key sectors in railways. In addition, the limits have been increased to 49% in defence and insurance. Unfortunately retail continues to remain a sector whose potential is constrained due to fears of a public backlash.
5) Corruption Se Swachh Bharat
After being subjected to an administration that was involved in scam after scam, the NDA government has put the focus on clean administration. Could we have imagined this website under the previous regime? Admittedly, the initial vigour with which the crusade against black money was started hasn’t been sustained, but there have been no big ticket scams either, and that’s a huge relief for the treasury.
6) Swachh Bharat On The Streets
In a country where cleanliness and hygiene is either ignored by the masses or relegated to the domestic help by the classes, the image of Modi wielding a broom while kicking off the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was striking. By many accounts the drive is a success. Over seven lakh toilets were constructed in January alone, carrying forward the state’s success in reducing open defecation. Additionally, World Bank has approved $1 billion for the campaign.
7) States Be The Boss
The states have always been instrumental in India’s growth which is why the growth rates vary so much in various corners of our country. Recognising this, Modi increased the share of states in tax from 32% to 42%. This will not only create a more decentralised structure but it will allow states to pursue the economic models that work for them.
8) Sunny Side Up
Modi’s commitment to solar energy is welcome in a country where unclean sources of power like coal are usually the norm. Modi, who has been instrumental in getting projects like the Canal Solar Power Project in Gujarat off the ground is pushing for more than $200 billion in India’s burgeoning renewable energy industry.
9) Ek Dil Chahiye Bas ‘Make In India’
There has been a lot of mixed response over the government’s ‘Make in India’ campaign. However there’s no denying that it has given NRIs, like my cousin, who saw a huge advertisement plastered across a German metro, a huge boost in pride. It may be showing results too like Airbus’ $2 billion outlay for manufacturing in India.
10) Atithi Devo Bhava. Promise.
Offering Visa on arrival for 143 countries was a huge boost for our beleaguered tourism industry. December 2014 saw five times the number of tourists of the previous year, and it only promises to get better with tourism’s 33% hike in the budget and a forecast 7.5% growth in 2015.