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Subsidies will be rationalised for poverty alleviation: Modi

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday asserted his government will rationalise and target subsidies towards the poor for their welfare and strive for reforms that positively impact the people and transform their lives.

He also said in his address at the Economic Times Global Business Summit here that India’s economic efforts should also have a positive global impact.

I am not arguing that all subsidies are good. My point is that there cannot be any ideological position on such matters. We have to be pragmatic. We have to eliminate bad subsidies, whether or not they are called subsidies,

“But some subsidies may be necessary to protect the poor and the needy and give them a fair chance to succeed. Hence, my aim is not to eliminate subsidies but to rationalise and target them,” he said.

Stressing that reforms in a country should be linked to people’s welfare, he said: “True reforms are those which results in a transformation in the lives of citizens. My goal is reform to transform. The biggest beneficiary of any reform should be the poor.”

Holding that creating new opportunities for citizens to progress is crucial for the growth of the nation, he said: “New opportunities are like oxygen to the aspirational citizens.”

Modi said that reforms will be fruitful only if they succeed in impacting the lives of citizens for the better.

We have to increase the quality of life of the common citizen and even more so, the quality of life of the poor. If a government is progressive, and runs an honest and efficient administration, the biggest beneficiaries are the poor. Poor governance hurts the poor more than it hurts others,

“I believe in the politics of empowerment. I believe in empowering the people to improve their own lives. We need to value enterprise and hard work, not wealth. Creating opportunities for cities and towns to grow is very crucial. Urban areas are an engine of growth,” he added.

Modi noted foreign direct investment (FDI) in India has increased by 39 percent in the last 18 months even while falling globally.

“The FDI in India increased by 39 percent in the last 18 months, when global FDI has fallen,” he said noting that at present, the global economy is going through a period of uncertainty.

Saying that “no country can be alone” in the globalised world today, he said: “India’s policies must be such that they make a positive contribution to the rest of the world. For the last four quarters, India has been the fastest growing large economy in the world,” he said.

Modi also noted that protecting the planet from climate change is “one of the most important tasks for this generation”. “We are committed to reducing the emission intensity of our GDP by 33 percent by 2030 even while growing at a fast pace,” he added.

Listing the government’s achievements, he said: “India’s highest ever urea fertiliser production was achieved in 2015. India’s highest ever production of ethanol as blended fuel, benefiting sugar cane farmers, was in 2015. the highest number of new cooking gas connections to the rural poor was achieved in 2015.

India’s highest ever output of coal was achieved in 2015. Shipping Corporation of India which made a loss of Rs.275 crore in 2013-14 made a profit of Rs.201 crore in 2014-15.

The prime minister also cited the benefits of the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme of cash transfers in a rationalisation of subsidies and weeding out illegal cooking gas connections.

“I was pleasantly surprised to see a noteworthy reduction in leakage, simply by eliminating those who were double counted and ineligible,” he said.(Inputs from IANS)(Picture Courtesy: economictimes.indiatimes.com)

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How telecom has become driver of economic change in India

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The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front.
The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. Wikimedia Commons
  • India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution
  • The sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991
  • India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world

For the most part of human history, the change was glacial in pace. It was quite safe to assume that the world at the time of your death would look pretty much similar to the one at the time of your birth. That is no longer the case, and the pace of change seems to be growing exponentially. Futurist Ray Kurzweil put it succinctly when he wrote in 2001: “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century – it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).” Since the time of his writing, a lot has changed, especially with the advent of the internet.

India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution. The country’s hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. In fact, according to Reserve Bank of India data, the sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991, growing by over 10 percent. On the other hand, no other sector has had a productivity growth of above five percent during the same period. It is no wonder that it has also been one of the fastest-growing sectors of the Indian economy, growing at over seven percent in the last decade itself.

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Such an unprecedented pace of growth has been brought about the precise levels of change that Kurzweil was so enthusiastic about. Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Meanwhile, India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world, which has hit rock bottom after the entry of Reliance Jio. This has ensured access to those even at the bottom of the pyramid.

A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country.
A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. Wikimedia Commons

Even though consumers have come to be accustomed to fast-paced changes within the telecom sector, the entry of Jio altered the face of the industry like never before by changing the very basis of competition. Data became the focal point of competition for an industry that derived over 75 percent of its revenue from voice. It was quite obvious that there would be immediate economic effects due to it. Now that we’re nearing a year of Jio’s paid operations, during which time it has even become profitable, we saw it fit to quantify its socio-economic impact on the country. Three broad takeaways need to be highlighted.

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First, the most evident effect has been the rise in affordability of calling and data services. Voice services have become practically costless while data prices have dropped from an average of Rs 152 per GB to lower than Rs 10 per GB. Such a drastic reduction in data prices has not only brought the internet within the reach of a larger proportion of the Indian population but has also allowed newer segments of society to use and experience it for the first time. Since the monthly saving of an average internet user came out to be Rs 142 per month (taking a conservative estimate that the consumer is still using 1 GB of data each month) and there are about 350 million mobile internet users in the country (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India data), the yearly financial savings for the entire country comes out to be Rs 60,000 crore.

To put things in perspective, this amount is more than four times the entire GDP of Bhutan. Therefore, mere savings by the consumer on data has been at astonishing proportions.

Today's smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons
Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons

Now, this data has been used for services that have brought to life a thriving app economy within the country. So, the second level of impact has been in the redressal of a variety of consumer needs — ranging from education, health and entertainment to banking. For instance, students in remote areas can now access online courseware and small businesses can access newer markets. Information asymmetry has been considerably reduced.

Third, a rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. These effects arise not merely from the creation of an internet economy, but also due to the synergy effects it generates. Information becomes more accessible and communication a lot easier. Businesses find it easier to operate and access consumers. Labour working in cities has to make less frequent trips home and becomes more productive as a result. Education and health services become available in inaccessible locations. Multiple avenues open up for knowledge and skill enhancement.

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An econometric analysis for the Indian economy showed that the 15 percent increase in internet penetration due to Jio and the spill-over effects it creates will raise the per capita levels of the country’s GDP by 5.85 percent, provided all else remains constant.

Thus, India’s telecom sector will continue to drive the economy forward, at least in the short run, and hopefully catapult India into 20,000 years of progress within this century, as Kurzweil postulated. The best approach for the state would be to ensure the environment of unfettered competition within the industry. Maybe other sectors of the economy ought to take a leaf out of the telecom growth story. The Indian banking sector comes to mind. However, that is a topic for another day. (IANS)

(Amit Kapoor is Chair, Institute for Competitiveness, India. He can be contacted at Amit. Kapoor@competitiveness.in and tweets @kautiliya. Chirag Yadav, a senior researcher at the institute, has contributed to the article.)