New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today indicated that the upcoming Budget will not be a populist one and said it’s a myth that the common man expects “freebies and sops” from the government.
In an interview with Times Now television broadcast tonight, he also pledged that his government will stay on the course of the reforms agenda that has pulled out India from being among the ‘fragile five’ economies of the world to being a ‘bright spot’.
Modi stoutly defended his economic policies, saying demonetisation was “a very big success story” and that he was open to changes in the new Goods and Services Tax (GST) to plug loopholes and make it a more efficient ‘one-nation-one- tax’ system.
Asked if his government will turn populist in its last full-year Budget before the general elections in 2019, Modi said the issue falls under the ambit of the finance minister and he does not want to interfere in it.
“But those who have seen me as the chief minister (of Gujarat) and also as the prime minister (would know) common man does not want all these things. It is a myth,” Modi said.
The common man, he said, expects honest governance. “He doesn’t demand sops and freebies. It is our myth.”
Asked specifically if he will resist populism in the Budget to be presented on 1 February, Modi said it needs to be decided if the country needs to grow and become strong, should “this political culture, the Congress culture, be followed”.
On job-less growth, the prime minister said, “Lies are being spread about employment generation.”
Explaining in detail, he said the formal sector accounts for 10% of the employment and the remaining 90% jobs are in the informal sector.
In last one year, 70 lakh new retirement fund or EPF accounts have been opened for the youth between 18 and 25 years of age, he said. “Doesn’t this show new employment,” PM asked.
Also, providing loans to 10 crore non-corporates and small businesses under the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY) has created entrepreneurs and jobs, Modi said.
On farm distress, Modi said the “criticism is justified” and “we can’t deny this”.
It is the responsibility of the central and state governments that problems faced by farmers are understood and resolved, Modi said.
On the task before him in the last one-and-half years of his government, Modi said providing electricity to four crore families who still do not have power and completing the programmes and schemes started for the benefit of the common man would be the priority.
Referring to economic achievements, he said in 2013-14, just before the BJP government came to power, India was considered “among the fragile five economies” in the world.
“Within three years, India has come not just come out of being among fragile file but also its economy is seen as a shining star with optimism and expectation,” the prime minister said.
India has all economic parameters done well — inflation or the rate of price rise, has averaged 3% in last three years as against 10 per cent previously, FDI inflows have more than doubled to $62 billion from $30 billion; fiscal deficit has been brought down to 3.5% of GDP from over 4.5%, current account deficit has come down to 1-2% from 4%, Modi said.
About being the first prime minister to be addressing plenary at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, he said this has been made possible because India has progressed.
“India has shown its economic strength to the world and so it is but obvious that the world wants to know India, it wants to know India directly (from the top leader) (and) understand it,” Modi said.
The prime minister said institutions like the IMF and World Bank and rating agencies like Moody’s are all complimenting steps taken by India.
Attacking critics of demonetisation, Modi said people attempted to “ignite a fire, incite riots and knocked at doors of the Supreme Court. They tried everything possible just to save those who were hoarding black money, to save the corrupt, to save the dishonest.”
The overnight decision to ban 86 per cent of the currency in circulation was “a very big success story”, he said.
Modi said India has jumped 42 places on ease of doing business ranking since the NDA came to power. “This in itself is a big achievement,” he said.
“The world is astonished that India has ended over 1,400 obsolete laws have been scrapped in last three years. Freeing a person from the clutches of these laws is a bigger achievement than making a new law,” Modi said.
The prime minister said people will realise the good work of his government only when they compare it the previous 10- year rule of the Congress-led UPA.