NEW YORK: India needs to capture some of the world markets if it has to sustain an 8-10 per cent growth rate over the next 20-25 years, a top planner has said but acknowledged that the country has been “slower” than others in entering into free trade agreements.
NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya said that “on the Free Trade areas, India has been certainly slower than other countries.”
He made the remarks here yesterday at a discussion organized by the Asia Society Policy Institute on the two years of the Indian government responding to whether trade-led growth is a priority for the government.
Panagariya said the broader question is whether “outward orientation” is part of the government’s strategy of development, adding that his push is in that direction.
“I just don’t see that if India is to try to sustain a growth rate of 8-10 per cent over a period of 20-25 years, it can’t be done without actually capturing some of the world markets,” he said.
He added that apart from liberalization, India would also need to focus on “internal reforms” like trade facilitation, speed at which goods can move in and out of the country and the various clearances required.
He noted that India’s internal goods market is less than USD 1 trillion while in the world market, merchandise exports stand at USD 18 trillion.
He said that in China, wages have been rising over 10 per cent a year for more than a decade and currently, they are 2-3 times the wages in India on an average.
“Wages are likely to rise much faster than they will rise in India. Lot of labor intensive firms are moving out of China and India ought to be the natural destination for them,” he added.
When asked if India could look at joining the Trans- Pacific Partnership, Panagariya said the TPP is not on India’s horizon “at this stage”.
“A lot of the things that India would need to do to be a member of the TPP remain to be done,” like on intellectual property, government procurement and labor standards.
“These are all very integral parts of the TPP and India is below the standards that are required in the TPP in these areas,” he said.
Referring to the H1-B visas, Panagariya said: “When you raise fees like this on a commitment in a way that effectively threatens to take away a concession that was actually given, then politically it does not generate a very good reaction on the other side”.
His remarks came in the backdrop of the US raising the visa fees for the popular H-1B petitions forcing Indian IT companies to shell out at least an additional USD 4,000 per application under the new regulations that came into effect last December. On job creation, he said unemployment is not a big issue in India but the “big problem” in the country is “underemployment” and cited the example of the agriculture sector, saying about 49 per cent of the workforce produces about 15 per cent of the GDP.
“Clearly there is gross underemployment,” he said adding that productivity issues need to be addressed.
Panagariya said trade agreements like with APEC will be a “stepping stone” and APEC by itself “is not going to get you very far”.
On GST, he said the reform is very much on the agenda.
While the Congress party wants 18 per cent cap on the GST put into the Constitution, the government is very reluctant to do that.
“That is the issue on which the resolution has to happen.
I personally think it will certainly happen. This is a high priority for the government,” he said adding that for the Congress party also under the UPA regime the GST was a high priority item but it did not get done.
“I remain optimistic. GST is a process even after the legislative documents are in place, there will still be a transition to GST. It is a process that takes some time. I’m not worried about GST,” he added.–PTI