Setting the agenda

Setting the agenda

After the right noises made by new prime minister Narendra Modi on various issues of governance, comes the agenda of his government as laid out by President Pranab Mukherjee in his address to joint session of parliament on Monday.

The government, through the president’s speech, has shown urgency in fixing an economy on the decline in the last few years and this will be welcomed.

Mukherjee has stressed on the need to bring down overall inflation including food prices and lifting the economic growth which has dropped to sub-5 per cent levels during the Congress-led UPA-II regime.

Containing inflation is politically important too for the NDA as it was the key reason for the thrashing that the Congress suffered in the Lok Sabha elections.

As regards taxes, the government has pointed to rationalising taxation while simplifying the regime, implementing the goods and services tax which had been opposed by some states including the BJP-ruled ones.

Although the BJP has opposed FDI in multi-brand retail, the government, through the president, has talked of following a policy of encouraging investments, including through FDI in areas which help create jobs.

On the infrastructure side, Mukherjee’s speech has predictably given it a lot of stress, as it talked of giving boost to power, irrigation, road and rail sectors.

Modi has extended former prime minister A B Vajpayee’s much-hailed Golden Quadrilateral project to the rail sector as the president announced the Diamond Quadrilateral high-speed train project.

In the energy field, Mukherjee emphasised the urgency in reforms in the coal sector which had been in the news for wrong reasons in the last few years besides operationalising the nuclear agreements, something which would be part of the agenda during September visit of Modi to the USA.

In the social sector, the steps unveiled by the president are an extension of the issues contained in the BJP’s election manifesto.

The government hopes to establish IITs, IIMs and AIIMS-like institutions in every state which is again a welcome move.

However, these promises should not merely remain on paper but need time-bound execution.

As regards foreign affairs, the president has indicated that the new regime’s focus will be on strengthening the ties with neighbours including China besides bringing a ‘renewed vigour’ to its relations with the US.

No doubt, all these are appreciative steps but the real test would be their implementation in letter and spirit.