NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday promised “strict action” against those engaging in financial manipulation and sought tight monitoring and surveillance to guard against misuse of public funds.
The PM’s message, at the YES Bank-Economic Times Global Business Summit, comes at a time when one of the country’s top public sector bank, Punjab National Bank, has been caught in the Rs 11,300 crore Nirav Modi scam while Kanpur businessman Vikram Kothari has been arrested for loan defaults of over Rs 3,500 crore.
“We are taking, and will take, strict action against financial manipulations,” the PM said in perhaps his first – though indirect — reference to the twin scams that have shaken the confidence in Indian banking system’s ability to prevent frauds.
Modi said that those in-charge of monitoring and surveillance should be on alert and financial institutions should discharge their duty responsibly. “They should follow the norms with the right intentions,” he said, adding, “Any misuse of public funds will not be tolerated.”
The PM spoke at length about the economic reforms undertaken by his government that will soon be completing four years in office.
“A new India, new economy, and new rules are there. Four years back, whenever people spoke about India, they made a reference to the ‘Fragile 5’. People used to laugh at us, and joke that not only is India going down, it is also pulling down the global economy. Now people talk about India’s target of becoming a $5 trillion economy. People are coming together with India,” Modi said while addressing an audience that comprised top local and global businessmen, as well as key bureaucrats and ministers from the government.
The prime minister highlighted his government’s achievements through power-point slides and said that India is now enabling a revival in the global economy through faster growth. He spoke about the record improvement in ease of doing business in India since the BJP-led government took charge in 2014, and the efforts that have been taken to control fiscal deficit and current account deficit even as FDI and foreign exchange reserves have moved up.
Emphasizing that macro-economic indicators remain healthy, Modi said that the government is now taking steps towards lending transparency in governance while according highest priority for the welfare of the poor and the lower-income groups. He mentioned how the Budget had rolled out one of the country’s biggest health scheme that aims to provide a Rs 5 lakh for serious ailments to 10 crore marginalized families.
He said that GST has been the “biggest tax reform” undertaken by his government and has helped to boost tax compliance while boosting the government’s revenues. “Earlier, we only had 60 lakh businessmen in the tax regime. Within seven months of GST coming into force, this number has crossed one crore. The tax net has widened and honest tax-payers are getting rewarded.”
Modi said numerous references to how the BJP government has performed better than the decade-long run of the Congress-led coalition between 2004 and 2014. He mentioned the higher growth numbers in areas such as road construction, power, internet connections to gram panchayats and the focus on LED bulbs.
He said that the government had taken special efforts to bring out black money for which it had formed an SIT to investigate alleged manipulations by importers and exporters.
The Prime Minister also asked the industry leaders to consider his suggestions on having simultaneous elections for the central and state governments, saying that the measure will not only save costs but will also create a more stable policy and investment environment.
In his welcome address, Times Group MD Vineet Jain pointed out that the world economy is doing better than four years ago, when Economic Times hosted the first Global Business Summit. “The world’s largest economies are all growing together. The rate of growth is the fastest since the recession a decade ago. World trade, which had been shrinking for some years, is growing again,” he said, adding that that the impact of the structural reforms was showing on the Indian economy.
At the same time, Jain pointed to the rising trend towards protectionism by larger economies. “Yet there is a paradox, for it is fair to say that globalization has taken a few knocks since the first GBS in 2015. Protectionism is on the rise around the world, particularly in the richer economies. Long-established trade treaties are being questioned.”