India needs to grow at a faster pace, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said, while asserting that there was public support for the government’s reform initiatives despite the difficulties arising from implementing GST, for instance.
“The obvious challenge to the country is to grow and grow fast. It has to grow at a much higher rate than we have been growing in recent history,” Jaitley said in an address via video conference to the Berkeley India Conference prior to his departure for the US.
He is due to leave for the US on Monday to attend the forthcoming annual meeting of International Monetary Fund and World Bank here.
“I do hope that India is able to retain its growth rate once again and live up to the aspirations of its people because we must not forget that we not only have a large population to service, we have a very young population to service,” he said.
“We have to grow at a much faster pace,” he said, adding that a young and aspirational population wants change and reforms at a fast pace, and is impatient to see results.
“Time therefore is running against us,” Jaitley said.
Pulled down by sluggish manufacturing, growth in the Indian economy, during the first quarter (April-June), fell to 5.7 per cent, clocking the lowest GDP growth rate under the Narendra Modi dispensation.
On reforms, the Finance Minister said the Goods and Services Tax (GST) has resulted in creation of a national tax structure.
“In the three months, you have all the check points in states disappeared, you have clear flow of goods and services which has started all over the country,” he said.
Acknowledging issues related to compliance, Jaitley said the GST Council had noted these challenges and is taking steps to address them.
GST has been a “reasonable smooth transformation,” but there is scope for improvement, he said.
“I think in GST Council we have succeeded in creating India’s first federal institution.”
On the demonetisation of high value currency, he said the Indian normal was to live with a high-cash economy and not pay taxes.
“You buy a property, you transact partly in cash, and in business you maintain two sets of accounts,” he said.
“How can a country, which aims to be the fastest growing major economy in the world, which aspires to grow from a developing to a developed economy, continue with the normal of this type,” he asked.
He said demonetisation had led to a sharp drop in insurgent and terror activities in states like Jammu and Kashmir and Chhattisgarh.
“You are having terrorist incidents, but the fact that you were finding 5,000-10,000 stone throwers being provided with money by the terrorist organisations, why is it that in the last eight-ten months it has not happened,” he asked.