NEW DELHI — In his first major policy speech to Parliament, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to prioritize economic reform and development in the world’s second most populous nation.
The Modi government will focus on lifting millions of rural Indians out of poverty by empowering the poor. The new government’s priorities mark a significant shift from the low-income population’s expanded federal subsidy programs, which had defined the past decade. If Modi’s reform plans are implemented as planned, India is set to be “back on a strong track of economic development” with a possible GDP growth rate of more than 8 percent.
Modi, a politician with Hindu nationalist roots, achieved a landslide victory last month in the world’s largest election to date. Along with the public’s frustration over stagnant growth and poor public services, the collective desire for increased economic opportunities and a higher standard of living propelled Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party to power over Rahul Gandhi’s Indian National Congress. Having previously played a role in driving Gujarat’s economic growth as chief minister, Modi is a “man of experience” in fighting poverty and spurring development.
Economist Charan Singh believes that Modi’s reform program will be a well-balanced approach, combining elements like agriculture, business, tourism, education, job opportunities, energy management and infrastructure. Specifically, Singh cites better sanitation facilities and healthcare policies as key provisions in the plan. Since India is still highly dependent on rainfall for drinking water and farming, Singh also supports projects that harvest the rainwater and link rivers together to offset areas with low precipitation.
Modi has stated that his administration would focus on bringing electricity, broadband and better education to Indian villages. In addition, every Indian should have the “minimum requirements of life” – a house, a toilet and clean water – by 2022, the nation’s 75th anniversary of post-colonial independence from the British.
The agricultural sector will benefit from new developments as well. Farmers will be taught to increase farm productivity in order to boost agribusinesses and employment in rural areas. The northeastern Indian states will be transformed into a “hub for organic farming to service the global market for such produce.”
Administrative changes include improving the accountability and efficiency of public services. By separating the procurement, storage, and distribution departments of the Food Corporation of India, Modi believes that the government will be able to reduce unnecessary waste and corruption. Modi’s administration will also call for greater decentralization so that each individual state can drive development in an overarching system of cooperative federalism. For example, coastal states could organize a collaborative effort to help India compete with Singapore and Sri Lanka in shipping.
In addition to revitalizing and reforming the economy, Modi plans to help ease India’s longstanding tensions with its neighbor Pakistan and address the growing concerns over China’s “expansionist tendencies.” India will continue to maintain and improve political and economic relations with countries in East and Southeast Asia – especially Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Vietnam – in order to secure vital trading partners and investors in major enterprises.
Modi believes that India is capable of moving towards a new definition of development. “If we adopt small solutions, we can drive big change.”
– Kristy Liao