The Modi Sarkar faces an economic imperative. The economy can scarcely afford the extent of inefficiency in systems and processes and the consequent waste. The economic imperative is also a political obligation. Every month a million people—or 12 million a year—are joining the workforce. To delay is to detain the aspirations of the youth and risk a socio-political conflagration down the road.
There is little doubt that the Modi Sarkar recognises the challenge. Year One has been about intent. The intent has been well executed. It is time for the articulation of action. This calls for a change in its approach and speed for quantum change. This also demands the need for innovation. Here are 12 ideas for the Modi Sarkar.
Blueprint to Retire Debt
It is not enough to contain fiscal deficit. The government needs a three-year road map to retire a major part of its debt. As of now, of every rupee the government borrows three fourths of every rupee it borrows to service debt. This limits investment and renders India a high-cost economy. The instruments to raise resources are aplenty—a sovereign dollar fund, transfer of PSEs to a trust, securitisation of receivables from sale of natural resources, land transfers et al.
The government—between railways, defence and public enterprises—owns millions of hectares of surplus land. Sure, no department will admit to a surplus but the thumb rule of not used since 2000 should enable identification. This land should be valued and transferred into an investment trust. The money raised could be used to rehouse earlier plans, redevelop land for new initiatives. The trust could also lease land for initiatives like Smart City and Make in India defence projects.
Recast the Crop Map
Thanks to a warped incentive structure of returns, India grows crops with high water intensity in areas stressed for water. In Punjab and Haryana, farmers are mining for water. In Maharashtra, sugarcane is being grown in rain-shadow districts. Deploying the combo of satellite mapping, soil tests and the procurement process, the government can recast the crop map. It could also incentivise funding of drip irrigation and creation of agri SEZs for flowers, fruits and vegetables.
The principal reason for delays in investment clearances stems from the multiplicity. Major projects for power, hotels, manufacturing are obliged to take clearances at district, state and central levels. There is really no logic why a proposal for a plant in Chakan or in Guindy must travel to Delhi for clearance. The centre must devise an oversight policy for the states to implement.
Incentivise Water Recycling
Singapore with scarce water resources has the most successful model for recycling water. India is yet drafting its Smart City policy. Why not incentivise recycling of water through subventions in credit, registration costs and taxes to enable new cities and new gated communities to set up water recycling plants like Zero Water in Singapore?
Offshore Carbon Footprint
India imports both fuel and inputs for fertiliser production. Why not collaborate with countries—say Morocco and Gabon or Iran or Qatar—to set up an offshore SEZ to produce the fertilisers closer to the source of energy and inputs. It would help bring down costs, improve fertiliser availability and offshore greenhouse effects.
A New Rate for EMI Loans
The thumb rule of lending is that the rate of interest must have a corelation to the risk profile of the borrower and the function for which credit is sought. That does not hold true in India. The riskiest borrower—the government—gets the best rate! India needs a new structure for retail borrowers—for homes, auto and durables—based on the incidence of NPAs in the sector and based on the credit rating of the individual. This will enable funding of aspirations and kick-start the virtuous cycle.
Invite Start-Ups for Agri Market
India badly needs a national market for perishables that connect farms to homes. Why not use the Rs 10,000 crore kitty announced last budget to invite solutions for different models making a participative market that connects producers and consumers online—as in e-commerce ventures?
Micro Market for Renewables
The focus of the government’s initiative on renewables has a wholesale look—big projects, grids, transmission and pricing. There is a huge opportunity to create a private market for retail power. Imagine if village panchayats, housing societies, cricket stadiums, schools et al could lease their rooftops or if communities could lease lake-tops for micro-mini solar set-ups or for wind power? Why not create a fund to enable small players to set up, aggregate and sell to mega grids?
Map out Make in India
Thus far the idea of Make in India has the optics of big business and glam products. There are a host of products —like stents used for cardiac treatments or greenhouses used in floriculture and high-value cash crops—that are imported and sold in India at exponential arbitraged profits. Why not map out the potential products, list them for the public to suggest products and invite Indian and global entrepreneurs to set up shop?
PPP for Public Hospitals
The government is pushing for AIIMS-type hospitals across states. This is good. But India desperately needs public hospitals that can cater to the paying and insured middle class. The insured are at the mercy of high costs at fancy hospitals or at risk with poor facilities in smaller hospitals. Why not create a PPP equity model where the states give land, insurance companies take equity, private doctors take up management?
India’s government schools are notoriously understaffed. Why not institute an award for the best teachers in critical subjects at the state level? Award-winning teachers’ classes be recorded and made available on CDs or online for schools across the state to access every time the regular teacher is missing—which is often. At least the students will not miss their classes and will have the option of learning from the best teachers.
Advantage of Modi’s Visits Abroad
■ The US and China support India’s bid for permanent UNSC seat
■ $35 billion investment promise by Japan
■ Australia to sign a N-power deal to supply around 500 tonnes of Uranium
■ Microsoft, PepsiCo, Facebook, Amazon discuss possible investments
■ Israel inks $5 million deal for Joint Educational Research programme
■ $20 billion investment promise from China
■ €2 billion support from France for sustainable development
■ Airbus to raise outsourcing business in India, from €400 million to €2 billion
■ French National Railways to co-finance an execution study for a semi high-speed project on upgradation of the Delhi-Chandigarh line to 200 kmph
■ Canada agrees to supply 3,000 MT of uranium
■ Japan and India agree to produce mixed rare earth
■ Saudi Arabia won’t levy ‘On-Time Delivery’ premium charges on crude oil
■ India will build four hydro power stations/dams in Bhutan and get energy
■ India will build the biggest ever dam in Nepal and will get 83 per cent green energy from there
■ Vietnam agrees to give oil exploration contracts to ONGC-Videsh
■ Increased oil import from Iran despite a US ban
■ India manages to bring back 4,000-plus Indians from the war zone in Yemen and foreign nationals from 41 different countries
■ France’s Rafale to supply 36 fighter jets soon
Next on the Agenda
GST: Tax reforms have been Modi’s main push to strengthen the economy. The Bill may get passed in next monsoon session for rollout next year.
Land Bill: A political hot potato, the Bill needs Parliament’s approval to allow major projects and developmental work to take off. Keen battle likely in the next Parliament session.
Black money: Modi won elections on the promise of curbing black money. With the new law passed, the government will give a compliance window to people to start declaring their assets after paying taxes.
Reworking policies: The government came out with draft health, education and tourism policies to give a boost to these sectors. Rolling out new effective policies will need political leadership.
Safer neighbourhoods: Pakistan, Bangladesh and China have been prickly neighbours. PM extended a warm handshake to them, but will be equally stern about guarding India’s borders.
2 lakh household toilets have been built besides 1,200 community toilet seats
Rs 98,000 crore approved for five-year period for Smart Cities and Atal Urban Mission
Swachh Bharat Launched last year on Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary, Clean Indian mission caught the country’s attention with people picking up the broom.
Namami Gange Despite billions being spent on cleaning the holy river, it kept getting dirtier. PM brought increased focus by carving a separate ministry. Last week the Cabinet approved Rs 20,000 crore for cleaning the river.
Jan Dhan Yojna The PM announced the financial inclusion scheme on August 15. Within four months it achieved the target of opening 10 crore bank accounts, providing overdraft facility and accident cover. The pro-poor measure was lapped up.
NITI Aayog Modi dismantled the Nehruvian legacy by replacing the Planning Commission with NITI Aayog, which aims to promote cooperative federalism by empowering chief ministers. States were happy as CMs now can decide policies based on their needs.
Adarsh Gram Yojna Aimed to transform a village by each MP in his constituency into a model village by 2016. Many MPs adopted villages as staying out of the scheme would have been politically suicidal. However, some are complaining about lack of funds.
Make in India An ambitious scheme to make India a manufacturing hub, by inviting global firms to set up shop here. Launched on Deen Dayal Upadhyaya’s birth anniversary, it was lanned to create jobs and push money into the economy. Aimed to rival China.
Digital India The initiative intends to connect rural areas with the Internet and provide government services through the electronic route, reducing paperwork. Can Internet connectivity be the answer to aspirations of the young India? Its deadline is 2019, just ahead of the next General Elections.
E-visa India had multiple things to offer to tourists, but cumbersome processes hindered it. The government eased the visa process by allowing over 70 countries to avail visas online. China has been the latest entry. Nearly one lakh visitors availed the facility this year.
Smart cities With cities becoming congested and polluted, everyone is waiting for smart cities that will have better public transport, better parking solutions and public spaces. The government sanctioned Rs 50,000 crore this month. The list of 100 cities will be chosen after a contest among contenders.
Injecting the Economy with a Dose of Progress