New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday launched a publicity blitzkrieg marking one year of the Modi government saying it has eliminated political and governmental corruption, put the economy back on track and accused the Congress of adopting obstructionism to growth.
Maintaining that the BJP-led NDA government has created an environment of enthusiasm in which decision-making process has become transparent, he said the government's decisiveness in the face of obstructionism has been its hallmark with speed of taking decisions.
Addressing the first of the two dozen press conferences to be addressed by union ministers throughout the country, Jaitley asserted that the country is getting investment and there is a need to ensure ease of doing business and expand economic activity to achieve double-digit growth.
At the 90-minute media interaction, Jaitley, who is also the Information and Broadcasting Minister, answered a number of questions on economy and politics and how the government dispelled the general environment of gloom that prevailed during the UPA regime which encouraged crony capitalism.
He expressed confidence that the controversial land bill will be passed in the next Parliament session because "the numbers are clear". Similarly, the indirect taxation reforms measure Goods and Service Tax (GST) will be passed in the next session.
The Minister, who is also the media face of the government, disapproved of the remarks made by his ministerial colleague Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi who had said those who want to eat beef could go to Pakistan or any other country. He dismissed opposition criticism over the overseas visits of Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying his visit to 18 countries in the last one year has earned for the nation a special place in the world.
"As far as the economic situation of the country is concerned, a year ago there was an environment of pessimism. There was a general environment of gloom. In its place, an environment of enthusiasm has been created," Jaitley said. He said from the environment of gloom to environment of enthusiasm, the biggest example is the economy is growing at 7.5-8 per cent.
"With that also there is restlessness that why is it not growing faster, the restlessness to grow even faster, which is the real potential of India." Decisions and difficult decisions are being taken by the government, he said adding that it was not the philosophy of the government to defer decisions because they could create problems.
"Decisiveness, even in the face of obstructionism, has been an important hallmark as far as this government is concerned," he said attacking the Congress without naming it. He said the people who are troubled with the speed of decision-making ask why bring Ordinance, why bring Money Bill.
"Today country is not ready to accept slow pace of decision making. So, along with decisiveness, decision making should have a pace and speed. "In the past one year there is no confusion as to the direction. There is absolute clarity with regard to the direction in which the government wants to go. And that direction is pro growth and development."
The Finance Minister said the decisions are being taken in the direction which will augment growth and promote development. "The result is there is openness in economic development. Country is getting investment. There is a need to ensure ease of doing business and expansion of economic activity.
"There is transparency in decision making. Whatever decisions we have taken, ministerial discretions have ended. Decisions are taken not based on individuals but on principles which do not ensure benefit to any individual," he said.
In matters of taxation, Jaitley said the government's position was very clear "and that is simplification". The Minister said he had stopped the revenue department from going ahead with the new Income Tax Return (ITR) forms which sought additional information with regard to bank accounts and foreign visits.
The revenue department is expected to soon come out with a simplified tax return forms. India, he said, "has the potential to touch a double digit growth and therefore to reach that potential what is it that we require?
"India must realise that it is an opportunity. There are economies in the world which we are not doing so well. You can be a natural recipient of a lot of international investments," he said.
Jaitley said the government's decision making has to be quick and fast. "Therefore if it takes us from 2003 to 2014 to pass the insurance laws, if it takes us from 2006 to 2015 to decide whether GST comes in, we don't send the best signals globally.
"Therefore, when we obstruct, we must realise that it is eventually in that journey to 10 per cent that we are obstructing. The principal opposition party has positioned itself against growth and development. They must reconsider their position in terms of the damage that they can do," he said.
He said contrary to UPA policy, in the NDA there was no place for crony capitalism though it was in favour of reforming and liberalising. To questions about whether the government was pro-corporate, he said his government is pro-growth and pro-development.
"Our social security programmes are going to be the strongest ever in the country. So certainly the policy is one of arm's length distance between decision making and individual decisions," he added.