WASHINGTON: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said he expects the long-pending GST bill to get the parliamentary nod this year while efforts to amend another contentious legislation on land acquisition are “over now”.
Modi also hit out at critics who accuse him of failing to pursue “big bang” measures to revamp the Indian economy, saying his government has undertaken maximum reforms since coming to power in May 2014.
He said that many of the changes he has put in place would have been regarded by previous administrations as difficult to implement, but now that he has done them, to his critics they no longer qualify as “big bang”.
“I have actually undertaken the maximum reforms,” Modi told The Wall Street Journal in an interview ahead of his visit to the US next month at the invitation of President Barack Obama.
Responding to a question on Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill, Modi said he expects the legislation to pass this year.
The GST bill, which has been approved by Lok Sabha, is pending in Rajya Sabha because of stiff resistance by Congress, the largest party in the House.
Government has been insisting that most of the parties, except Congress, are in favor of GST, which will bring about a uniform indirect taxation regime in the country.
He said the efforts to amend the land acquisition law at the federal level were “over now” and it is now up to individual states to pursue changes.
Modi said he would look to states to further liberalize the country’s rigid labor laws, the daily reported.
“Labor reform should not just mean in the interest of industry,” he said adding, “Labor reform should also be in the interest of the laborer.”
“When I came to the government, I used to sit down with all the experts and ask them to define for me what is the ‘big bang’ for them,” he said, adding
“Nobody could tell me.”
But at the same time he was quick to add that there was a need to do more.
“I have an enormous task ahead for myself,” Modi said in Hindi.
The Prime Minister said after coming to power his government had opened up more of the economy to foreign investment and made changes to curb corruption, fill gaps in rural infrastructure and make it easier to do business.
The Prime Minister also underscored the importance of public sector undertakings in the country.
“In any developing country in the world, both the public sector and the private sector have a very important role to play. You can’t suddenly get rid of the public sector, nor should you,” Modi said.
The Prime Minister stressed on the defense manufacturing sector to not only cut down on imports but also to generate employment.
“As far as defense is concerned, certainly India wants to go ahead in defense manufacturing because we have a lot of defense imports,” he said.
“If I look at from an economic point of view, and to provide jobs to my country’s young people, the defense equipment manufacturing sector can provide the maximum number of jobs to my country’s youth. For that I have been working hard for many days and I also talk to other countries,” Modi said.
On foreign policy, Modi said his government wants to build very close relationship with neighbors for which he is taking personal initiatives.
“You know that the day my government came to power, it was my initiative to invite the heads of State, of all SAARC countries for my swearing in ceremony. Even before I became Prime Minister, I made my intentions clear that we want to build a very close relationship with all our neighbors,” Modi said.
“The development that I desire for India, I want the same for our neighbors. And this is why I visited Lahore recently.
So this (improving relationship with neighbors) is my own initiative,” Modi said responding to a question on ties with neighbors, in particular Pakistan.
The Prime Minister also spoke about terrorism.
“Yes terrorism is a concern for the whole world. We can’t compromise on terrorism, nor should we. Wherever there is terrorism in the world, we stand against it,” Modi said in response to the question.
About his US visit next month and his relations with Obama, Modi said, “We have also developed a kind of friendship where we speak freely with each other.”
Modi and Obama are scheduled to meet at the White House on June 7.
Modi, who has spent considerable part of his time in meeting world leaders and building relationships with them, feels that India is no longer standing in a corner and is confident of New Delhi’s rising position on the global stage.
“Today, unlike before, India is not standing in a corner,” Modi said.
He also downplayed any friction with China, pointing to increasing trade and diplomatic exchanges between the two nations.–PTI