In Manila on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi extolled the benefits of demonetisation to ASEAN business leaders. He also spoke at length about initiatives taken by his government, particularly its efforts at curbing corruption.
The note ban decision has faced flak domestically, as has the roll out of the goods and services tax (GST). But the PM, in his address to the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit on the sidelines of the India-ASEAN and East Asia Summits, told the gathering that "demonetisation", among other steps, "has resulted in formalizing a large part of our (India's) economy."
Modi also listed the implementation of GST as another achievement of his government. He said several benefits have accrued as India marches towards a less cash economy -- number of new tax payers filing income tax returns has more than doubled, digital transactions have increased by 34 per cent in one year.
The PM said open auction of natural resources, telecom spectrum, coal mines and other minerals and even private radio channels, has together contributed close to $75 billion in revenue. He spoke about how India's "unique ID system" (Aadhaar) is being used "in financial transactions and taxation".
The PM said the "the task of transforming India is proceeding on an unprecedented scale." His listed some of the transformative steps - repeal of 1200 outdated laws in three years, new laws for bankruptcy and insolvency and 36 white industries taken out from the requirement of environmental clearance.
Modi said "incorporating a company is now just a one-day affair." He said simplified rules have shown results - India has climbed 30 places in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index this year. "It is the biggest jump by any country this year and a recognition of India's long term reform trajectory," the PM said.
He said India has moved up 32 places in the last two years in the Global Competitiveness Index of the World Economic Forum, 21 places on the Global Innovation Index of WIPO in two years and 19 places on the Logistics Performance Index of 2016 of World Bank.
The PM said most sectors were now open for foreign direct investment (FDI). "Compared to last three years, we have received 67 per cent more FDI in this year," he said. Modi also spoke about 290 million Jan Dhan accounts being opened, nearly 200 million Ru-pay cards distributed and more than 146 million people receiving direct cash subsidies. "Subsidies worth nearly $10 billion are being directly transferred to the bank accounts of the intended beneficiaries," Modi said.
Modi said collateral-free loans have been disbursed to more than 90 million small entrepreneurs under the Mudra scheme.
He invited ASEAN countries to increase their investments in India. Modi said improving connectivity with ASEAN was a key objective of India. He said New Delhi was working on the early conclusion of the Agreement on Maritime Transport between India and ASEAN and are exploring coastal shipping services with countries that are India's immediate maritime neighbours.