Here’s an edited excerpt of her remarks at the event:
You have gathered to recognise the achievements even during these challenging times and you are talking of a post-Covid-19 world returning to a high-growth path. Many things have been said. Many observations have been noticed. Rate revisions have been spoken about.
As was spoken about by the International Monetary Fund even in January, it is revising its estimates in its World Economic Outlook, revising upwards gladly. So today, even the global growth path is having a positive impact but in that, India’s growth path is being pitched a notch higher, and I am glad for it, because in the first quarter of 2020, we all knew what the impact of the lockdown was. The lockdown was necessary because we placed a premium on the lives, and a bit later on livelihoods too. So it is important now, therefore, to recognise those factors, which are definitely indicative of the positivity that we have felt and also spoken about. They are not just from nowhere.
The indicators, whether it is the PMI-manufacturing, PMI-services, e-way bills, rail freight or GST collections, all of them have consumption; all of them are indicating that this positivity is not based on nothing. It is based on concrete evidence, and therefore, I think all of us should draw comfort in the fact that we are seeing all those high-frequency indicators moving steadily without a break, maybe a notch down but also above in some cases, and in others absolutely steadily going up. So we need to recognise the fact that India’s growth is definitely on the higher benchmark.
It is sustained since we started in July and after that a bit slowly, but surely the frequency is definitely far higher than what anyone else would have thought, and as a result, you have a review of what they think is the revival rate of Indian economy. The recent monthly bulletin of the RBI also spoke about a recovery in the services sector. It also mentioned very clearly that there is a clear revival in the services sector also. Manufacturing is definitely picking up. The services sector contributes 50 per cent or more to the GDP, and unless the revival of the services sector is sharply felt, most of us felt that probably the imbalance would make some kind of disruption.
So now with the RBI’s latest monthly review, which has come out, we are assured that the revival of the services sector is distinctly felt, and honestly, I was so pleased and touched by the wordings which the RBI bulletin had. I want to share those with you. I quote, “Here there is a restless urgency in the air in India to resume high growth.” This is the wording which the RBI’s latest monthly bulletin used in the context of growth that is happening in India. Who played what role in having that “restless urgency” come about is a different debate. But I was so glad to read these candid lines from the RBI in its latest monthly bulletin.
So the increasing consumption in the economy is also, therefore, waiting for the revival of these two sectors: manufacturing and services. That is very important and the strategy that the government took up and the extent of the packages, the three Atmanirbhar packages, meant that we have come up with about Rs 27.1 lakh crore announced during those three packages, which is equivalent to 13 per cent of the GDP. They are of a one-time nature. I have given it and I have distanced myself. Now, these are such commitments that have a greater multiplier impact, and are going to be through the year and possibly into the next year also. So not only this, the one thing which stands out in India is unlike even many of the developed countries is the way this country over the decades placed emphasis on the development of vaccines, the pharma sector, and so on. Today, we are in a very comfortable position in terms of vaccine supply.
The Budget announcements on February 1 set a landscape for the next 15-20 years, and clearly do not shy away saying what this country needs. In the policy that I have announced, privatisation means we are allowing the country’s private sector also to seek an opportunity in reviving many of these units where a further infusion of taxpayers’ money is not possible. We need professionals managing them better and such money is coming in, which becomes more and more sharply accountable, and that is why this policy, which was announced in the Budget, together with the Atmanirbhar announcements, where the money has gone in for such activities, are setting up the landscape.
Not only that we very clearly talked about infusing greater capital expenditure in infrastructure and you know why: infrastructure creates assets, infrastructure creates wealth, and also provides the multiplier, which is so required in times like these. Now with this little opening statement, I am taking the opportunity to speak about a few things which have been discussed less after the Budget. I have noticed fewer discussions on certain parts of the Budget.
The Budget had a lot of things to say. The Atmanirbhar package had a lot of things. Many big-ticket items are being taken up and discussions are happening. All the discussions are happening and giving me a lot of ideas about how to take it further, when I am executing them. But less known points which are going to be of great importance for industry, for agriculture and for MSMEs are things which I would certainly love people to talk about, write, and flag, and also tell the government that ‘this measure is fine, but take caution here’, ‘that measure is okay but you might have to fine tune it there’, and so on.
So I take this opportunity to make sure that I can draw the attention of your eminent audiences on those less discussed points, because I would think the Budget is infused with a lot more things that are not capturing the imagination of business leaders. I will just flag them. I may not even get into the details because I am sure you will be able to look at them.
The financing facility for boosting agricultural infrastructure is something which I want to draw your attention to. Rs 1 lakh crore was announced for funding activities that will be infused for improving the agricultural infrastructure. I want to underline where industry probably will have a role to play, which is going to help in bringing value addition for agriculture itself, India’s biggest strength.
Today, the world is looking for herbal infusion for cosmetics, herbal infusion for wellness, and herbal infusion for even some kind of allopathic medicines. So we have said, a Rs 5,000 crore income generation opportunity exists for farmers here.