Fast-track steps to boost growth, PM Modi tells bureaucrats

Prime Minister Narendra Modi told senior bureaucrats last week that he wanted speedier steps to boost the economy after a group of secretaries made a presentation on the road map for trade and economic measures, people familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity.

Underlining that “pace is essential”, the PM quipped, only half in jest, two of the people added, that bureaucrats should work on these at the same pace with which they push files pertaining to their foreign tours.

During the meeting, commerce secretary Anup Wadhawan made a Power Point presentation on the road map for trade and economic policies over the next five years. Wadhawan heads the sectoral group of secretaries (SGoP) on the economy. He said this group would work towards a “predictable, stable and investor-friendly” policy environment. His presentation addressed challenges in infrastructure, land aquisition, logistics and utilities, according to people present in the meeting.

After returning to power in May last year, the PM formed 10 SGoS in October to provide suggestions and actionable points for different sectors.Groups were formed on key issues such as energy, infrastructure, finance, economy, rural and agriculture. The economy SGoS made its presentation on January 17; only the finance panel is yet to make its (this is expected only after the Union Budget on 1 February). The economy report was presented to the council of ministers at the Pravasi Bhartiya Kendra on January 17.

After Wadhawan’s report, the people present at the meeting said, the PM asked for specific measures and plans to support the intent of what was presented. Nothing the hard work of the bureaucrats in preparing the report, he added that he would like to see more pace in the measures to boost the economy.

Interestingly, the report on the economy suggested that the government should leverage section 10D of the public procurement order if Indian companies faced discrimination in other countries.

The section says if Indian suppliers of an item are not allowed to participate or compete in procurement by any foreign country, the government may restrict or exclude bidders from that country from procurement of that item or any other item in India.

According to officials, this proposal is seen in the context of China where Indian companies are discouraged from participating in tenders for the railways. The report also said the government’s e-procurement portal GeM, which allows even small industries or suppliers to bid for tenders, should be extended to procurement in the railways and defence sectors.

The panel has also suggested that more Indian cities be included in the World Bank’s Ease of Business survey. The survey is currently confined to two cities — Delhi and Mumbai. The senior bureaucracy feels that if cities such as Bengaluru and Chennai are added, a better picture of India’s improving business environment will emerge.

“The rules allow the government to suggest to the World Bank that more cities be included,” said a secretary-level officer who asked not to be named.

The report suggested that artisans involved in making khadi products must be brought under the Aadhaar-based direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme. Unlike in many other government schemes such as scholarships or the rural job guarantee programme MGNREGS, khadi workers are still paid in cash. This allows space for middlemen to exploit the artisans. The DBT can help the government get rid of middlemen and the artisans would get better income, the presentation pointed out.

Earlier, Modi asked the SGoS to rework their reports to incorporate suggestions made by ministers during the presentation of their reports.

Source:  Hindustan Times

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