India’s new government will pursue an economic reform agenda that foresees introducing a general sales tax, encouraging foreign investment and speeding approvals for major business projects, the president has told parliament.
Pranab Mukherjee also said on Monday the new government would engage energetically with its neighbours, including China.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government will “urgently pursue” reforms to the state-run coal sector to attract private investment, Mukherjee told politicians elected in Modi’s landslide victory last month.
In an address to the two houses of parliament which was drawn up by Modi’s new cabinet, Mukherjee said India’s economy faced “extremely difficult” times and that inflation was “unacceptably” high.
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The speech also included a series of ambitious policy goals that had been laid out in the election manifesto of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including the creation of 100 new cities and a revamp of the railway network.
“The country is passing through an extremely difficult phase on the economic front,” said Mukherjee. “Putting the economy back on track is paramount for my government.”
“My government will strive to get India on a high growth path, reign in inflation, restart the investment cycle …[and] restore investor confidence,” he said.
India’s economy has been growing at below five percent for the past two years, far below the level needed to lift millions of people out of poverty, while inflation is currently running close to nine percent.
Modi’s conservative BJP, which defeated the ruling centre-left Congress party in polls in April and May, made reviving the economy the main platform of its campaign as well as promising to clean up government.
In the speech, Mukherjee said that “my government … will be predictable, transparent and fair” and “was committed to providing a clean and efficent administration focused on delivery”.
The government would “make every effort” to fulfil its pre-election promise to bring in a new general sales tax and would also “embark on rationalisation and simplification of the tax regime” to make it less “adverserial”, Mukherjee said.