PM asks industry to help build consensus on economic reforms

"Going forward, the pace of reform in India will depend on how far our policies meet the test of democratic consensus... it should not be assumed that the responsibility of forging consensus, whether it is on a unified goods and services tax or other economic legislation devolves on the government alone," he said at the convocation of the Indian Institute of Management here.

Singh said the industry must play "its part in building public opinion, suggesting alternative policies that reconcile multiple interests and objectives and canvassing its viewpoint in a credible and transparent manner."

On GST, which is considered the most ambitious tax reform in the country, the political parties are divided as some Chief Ministers, especially of BJP-ruled states, have raised the question of state autonomy, though the Constitutional amendment bill has been introduced in Parliament.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had earlier appealed to the industry to help build political consensus to usher in an unified tax regime of states and the Centre.
The Prime Minister said the success of the reforms would also depend on ensuring that vulnerabilities of different sections of population are addressed and the corporates play their role as well.

"Companies undertaking greenfield projects cannot see their factories and units as oases cut off from the needs and interests of the community around them," the Prime Minister said.

He also referred to land acquisition, an issue that has become a bone of contention between farmers and the industry and said more effective mechanisms and principles for the use of land and other resources that reconcile different interests should be worked out.

"At the larger level, our common task is to guide the public debate on important issues, noisy as it sometimes can be, towards a meaningful consensus," Singh said.
Lauding the IIMs for serving the managerial needs of the country for five decades, the Prime Minister said "they must now prepare our youth for the demands of a globalised world..."

Noting that Indian managers face many challenges, he said "it is their ability to deal with these challenges that make them among the world’s best managers. Indian CEOs are second to none in the world."

Singh said there is "a revolution of expectations" and a "surge of aspirations" among the youth.

Recalling the progress of economic reforms initiated in 1991, Singh said "today, the success of the reforms is evident. We have long since left behind the era of modest savings, low investment and low growth. India is today among the world’s fastest growing economies.

"Our savings and investment rates give us confidence that we can, with prudent policies and sound economic management, achieve sustained double-digit growth," he said.
India, he said, has emerged as a global centre for information technology, research, development and innovation and has gradually become one of the most preferred destinations for foreign investors.

Even people in rural India are seeking lives of greater dignity and well being through the right to information, education and employment, he said.

While India should take pride in its successes, the country still has to deal with the problems of mass poverty, hunger and disease and corruption, Singh said.

"We need to bridge the enormous infrastructure deficit, the regional divide and the digital divide. We must ensure much greater penetration of quality and affordable social services", Singh said.

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