India growth story to pick up speed with development of NE: PM

[ Achinta Borah ]
GUWAHATI, Feb 3: Highlighting the “path-breaking” economic reforms undertaken by his government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said India’s growth story would further pick up speed when there is an all-round development of the Northeast.
Inaugurating the two-day Global Investors Summit hosted by Assam, he stressed on the importance of the Act East Policy in the Centre’s aim of achieving balanced and fast-paced growth of the Northeastern region.
“We have created the Act East Policy and the Northeast is at the heart of it.
“The Act East Policy requires increased people-to-people contact, trade ties and other relations with countries on India’s east, particularly the ASEAN countries,” he said.
The prime minister said due to economic reforms, India is today the most preferred investment destination in the world with the highest FDI in the last fiscal at USD 60 billion, and highlighted the country’s improved credit rating, low inflation rate and opening of various sectors to foreign direct investment.
“The world sees India today as an emerging powerhouse for economic growth,” he said.
Modi said his government has changed the work culture of the official machinery, giving it greater speed, and “we want all projects to be completed before target.”
Pointing to initiatives announced in the budget on health insurance and free cooking gas connection for the poor and transparency in tax regime, he said all the schemes of the union government are oriented towards bringing about a qualitative change in the lives of the people.
The aim is to improve “ease of living,” the prime minister said.
The union government has taken up many path-breaking economic reforms in the last three years, which have simplified procedures for doing business, he said.
It is a result of these reforms that India today ranks 100 among 190 countries in the Doing Business Report of the World Bank, after climbing up 42 ranks, Modi said.
India’s position has improved in many other ratings, like the Global Competitiveness Index of World Economic Forum and Moody’s rating upgrade from stable to positive in November 2017.
“Our policies have ensured that inflation remains below 5 per cent mark. Now, we have foreign exchange reserves of USD 418 billion.
“Many new sectors have been opened for 100 per cent FDI through automatic route like automobiles, textiles, tourism, ports and highways.
“Today, India is one of the most preferred destinations for FDI. India has received the highest ever annual FDI of USD 60 billion in 2016-17,” he said.
Talking about the recent announcements in the budget, he said 45-50 crore people would benefit from the health insurance scheme Ayushman Bharat, and it has enhanced the possibilities of setting up hospitals in tier II and III cities by hospital chains.
Modi said the government’s current focus is on infrastructure investment and next year it will be investing about Rs 6 lakh crore in this sector.
“This year we aim to complete more than 9,000 kilometres length of national highways. We will be developing 35,000 kilometres of roads with an investment of Rs 5.35 lakh crore under the Bharatmala project,” he said, adding the Railways will make an investment of Rs 1.48 lakh crore in 2018-19.
Assam is hosting its first global investors’ summit to showcase its manufacturing opportunities and geostrategic advantages to foreign and domestic investors.
The summit aims at highlighting Assam’s core competencies in different sectors, along with the policy initiatives taken by the state government.
The prime minister said the tagline of the summit, ‘Advantage Assam: India’s Express way to ASEAN’, is not just a statement but is a comprehensive vision.
India’s growth story will further pick up speed only when there is an all-round development of the Northeast and its people, he said.
Modi said development of the MSME sector is a priority for the government as this is the back-bone of country’s industries.
“In this year s budget, we are giving a big relief to the MSMEs by reducing the rate of income tax to 25 per cent on companies reporting a turnover of up to Rs. 250 crore.
“This will benefit almost 99 per cent of companies,” he said.
Modi said the 2018-19 budget has provided additional deduction to the employees of 30 per cent of the wages paid for new employees under the Income Tax Act.
“We are also rolling out e-assessment of income tax across the country to eliminate corruption and bring efficiency and transparency,” he said.
Further, the women employees’ contribution to the EPF will be eight per cent for first three years against existing rate of 12 per cent.
The prime minister said he was happy to note that Assam is ranked first among the Northeastern states in the Ease of Doing Business report.
“I am sure that with the present leadership of the state government, Assam is going to further improve its current position to emerge as one of the most sought-after states for industrial investment in the country,” he said.
Those present at the event included Bhutanese PM Tshering Tobgay, several union ministers, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, chief ministers of Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur, ambassadors and high commissioners of 16 countries, RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani, and Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekharan, besides others. (PTI)