The NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has completed its two years in office. It is normal for any government which enters the middle of its tenure to consolidate its road map for the future. For the Modi government, the first two years has also been like the slog-overs.
The government was formed in a peculiar environment. The UPA had abandoned policy formulation. It was dubbed as an era of 'policy paralysis'. Both global and domestic investors had started disregarding India. India was off their radar. The credibility of governance was marred with scams and scandals.
The Prime Minister's Office was no longer the repository of the last word. The 2014 election verdict was aspirational. The decisive majority in the Lok Sabha made decision making easier for the new government. The Prime Minister, by instinct, is decisive. The character of governance has changed.
Prime Minister Modi and his team have presented India with a changed political and governance culture. That India can have a clean government at the Centre where files move on their own, middlemen are unemployed, discretions are eliminated, is a reality being presented before the country today. From 'policy paralysis', India has transformed into the fastest growing global economy for two years in a row.
Federalism has been respected as never before. The Prime Minister, with his hands-on approach, has presented India with a government that projects itself as different from its predecessor.
India needed investment. Investment is the starting point of all economic activity. Both the banks and the private sector had over stretched themselves during the UPA government. Thus, a bulk of investment in the last two years came by way of enhanced public expenditure and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The emphasis of the investment has been India's infrastructure, rural sector and India's social sector. The highways sector is booming all over again. The expenditure this year on India's rural roads will be three times what it was earlier.
Twenty five more regional airports will be added. The Railways are being strengthened. With the re-development of four hundred major railways stations, the face of Indian Railways will be changed. There is more power available than what India needs. The port capacity is being strengthened with additional investments. Game changing initiatives in the oil and gas sector have been taken.
Electrification of all un-electrified villages, expansion of rural roads, rural sanitation, housing for all, enhanced expenditure on irrigation, more money for the Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, more money for interest subvention to make cheaper capital available for the farmer, are all instrumentalities of funding rural India.
The social sector schemes have been path breaking. The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) is the largest ever financial inclusion scheme in the world. Every Indian today has the facility of being connected to a bank account. Subsidies are being rationalized so as they are targeted only to the poor and needy.
The Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) is saving a lot of money being used for undeserving sections so that it can be preserved for the more deserving. The cheap insurance schemes, the employment generating Mudra Yojana, landmark crop insurance schemes and the proposed health insurance for the weaker sections are a part of the larger social security package that the government has rolled out.
For the first time in history, coal, mineral, spectrum, etc, are all available only through online auctions. The mining sector today has been opened up for investment. The non-discriminatory system of allotment is in sharp contrast to the scam culture of the past.
Taxation in India was perceived as extra aggressive
Today, 94% of assessees file their returns online, all taxpayers get their refunds digitally sitting at home and only 1% have to physically interact with the Department for their assessments. The direct taxes are being rationalized so as to incentivize manufacturing and increase investment.
The GST, once implemented, will prove to be one of the biggest tax reforms since independence. It will allow a nationwide transfer of goods and services without any stoppage. It will reduce evasion, yield higher tax and increase India's GDP.
The banking sector has been considerably expanded. Small Banks, Payment Banks, which are now available through licenses on taps, have provided more options to the consumer. The Bankruptcy and Insolvency Code, coupled with amendments to the Sarfaesi Act and strengthening of the Debt Recovery Tribunals will go a long way in empowering the banking system to recover dues.
The Fourteenth Finance Commission has enhanced the share of the States in central tax pool from 32% to 42%. This has empowered the States to spend more for development.
In the past two years, the NDA broadened its footprints all over the country. After the Lok Sabha elections, the NDA won in the states of Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Assam. We lost in Delhi and Bihar. The Congress lost every state post 2014. The NDA today, besides ruling the Centre, is in power in fifteen states in the country. Its footprints have expanded.
The next one year will witness many more important legislations and directional steps in policy formulation.
Under Prime Minister Modi, our effort will be to grow and grow faster. We have shown to the world a Government with a difference. We will continue to strive in that direction.
The Union Finance Minister wrote this article exclusively for the Press Trust of India.