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India President's Agenda Stresses Economic Reform

  • Anjana Pasricha

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (R) arrives with Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi (L) to address the joint session of Parliament in New Delhi, June 9, 2014.

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (R) arrives with Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi (L) to address the joint session of Parliament in New Delhi, June 9, 2014.

President Pranab Mukherjee said on Monday that putting the economy back on track is paramount, promising broad economic reforms and more investor-friendly policies in an address to newly elected lawmakers.

He said the country is passing through an “extremely difficult phase” as growth has dipped below 5 percent for two consecutive years and inflation is “unacceptably high.”

“We will work together to usher our economy into a high-growth path, rein in inflation, reignite investment cycles, accelerate job creation and restore the confidence of the domestic as well as international community in our economy,” Mukherjee said.

Mukherjee's address sets the policy agenda of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

It was made at parliament’s first session since the new Bharatiya Janata Party government took office last month.

The president told lawmakers elected in Modi's landslide victory last month that the government would introduce a general sales tax, encourage foreign investment and speed up approvals for major business projects while tackling bottlenecks that make India's food inflation the highest among major economies, Reuters reported.

The government promised to provide basic amenities such as health care, housing, water and toilets, saying it is turning the focus from poverty alleviation to poverty elimination.

It also set an ambitious agenda to modernize India by building smart cities and world-class industrial zones.

Jobs for youth

The BJP-led government wants to transform India into a globally competitive manufacturing hub in order to create more jobs for millions of young people.

To achieve that, Mukherjee said the government will remove hurdles that have discouraged investors from considering the country, which until three years ago was regarded as one of the world’s rising economic stars.

“My government will create a policy environment which is predictable, transparent and fair. It will embark on rationalization and simplification of the tax regime to make it non adversarial and conducive to investment, enterprise and growth,” Mukherjee said.

Modi’s sweeping victory is attributed to his campaign pledge to lift India out of economic stagnation.

Modi's government also promised to ensure that every Indian family has a good home with uninterrupted supplies of power by 2022. It will urgently seek to revamp India's creaking railway system, with a focus on high speed trains, as well as road and airport building, Reuters reported.

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