Narendra Modi and his key cabinet ministers made one big pitch over the two-day
Economic Times Global Business Summit – economic fundamentals are strong and India is on a relatively strong wicket.
The PM started the messaging on March 6 with his keynote address, saying “our policies are clear, our fundamentals are strong…” and that to minimise the impact of the global slowdown, his government has “taken whatever initiatives we could, whatever proactive action we could.”
The Modi government’s GBS counteroffensive against its economic policy critics came in the context of some downbeat economic data. Latest quarterly growth was at a seven-year-low of 4.7%, industrial growth figure was negative and markets seemed spooked by the potential impacts of Covid-19 and Yes Bank meltdown. As predictions of severe slowdown in American and global economy gathered force, US Fed cut rates by 50 basis points.
The PM and his ministers, however, repeatedly argued at GBS that the world’s fifth-largest economy was more insulated from the global slowdown than other major economies.
Modi, noting that the world economy was taking a hit, said his government’s $5 trillion economy target was achievable, thanks to a four-pronged approach: Collaboration with the private sector, fair competition, wealth creation and removing archaic laws.
His other pitches included what he and his ministers have frequently mentioned: A ₹100 lakh crore infrastructure investment plan, being in “continuous touch with all stakeholders, regularly taking feedback, and taking big decisions at every level.”
Modi’s ministers continued with his theme of “a powerful, progressive push for development” on GBS Day 2, March 7.
Commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal argued India’s economy is “quite insulated (from the global economy)” and therefore India is “on a relatively strong wicket”. Goyal was insistent that “all numbers do not reflect any immediate cause for concern”.
Aviation minister Hardeep Puri was emphatic that the narrative on economic slowdown is “missing” some things. “I look at what’s happening in housing and urban development and civil aviation… I am also a minister of state for commerce and industry, I wonder where this (slowdown) narrative is coming from,” Puri said, adding that slowing growth after 11 years of expansion wasn’t unusual.
The minister argued much of the critique was “politically motivated”. Niti Aayog vice chairman Rajiv Kumar had a similar argument. “We are in the tail end of modest slowdown of the economy,” he said, adding that “the worst is behind us”. “Those who persist in spreading the crisis narrative are doing so either cynically or for political reasons,” the economist argued. Defence minister Rajnath Singh said the push for domestic defence manufacturing and exports would be vital for getting to the $5 trillion GDP landmark. External affairs minister S Jaishankar said diplomacy’s proactive push for Indian business in other markets is a little-appreciated source of higher incomes and jobs at home.