Govt not at a standstill due to polls, working to make India a $35 trillion economy by 2047: Piyush Goyal

New Delhi: The government is not at a “standstill” just because elections are coming up but is “super active” as it works on turning India into a developed, $35 trillion economy by 2047, commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal said Friday. The theme of the upcoming general election is Viksit Bharat with a focus on “nari shakti” and “bhrashtachar-mukt Bharat (women power and corruption-free India),” he added.

India’s growth will be based on the twin pillars of being inclusive and sustainable and the government wants to ensure that people are free from having to worry about the necessities of “roti, kapda aur makaan”.

“We believe that nobody should slip back into poverty. As people’s basic needs are being met with free ration and other benefits, they should be free from the tension of daily needs,” Goyal said at a meeting with ET journalists. “We want an aspirational India, which can dream of big leaps and aspire for high quality of life.”

The country’s growth story is like no other in the world, said Goyal, also minister for consumer affairs, food and public distribution and textiles.

On startups, Goyal said that the Centre’s aspiration is to have 1,000 unicorns. “Our startup ecosystem is the third largest in the world and is working smoothly. I wish to see more private sector investments from domestic funds and domestic industry. That’s my biggest concern about the startup ecosystem,” he said.

Crowdsourcing Ideas

Referring to a meeting that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had with his council of ministers along with secretaries and Niti Aayog to discuss the vision of Viksit Bharat 2047, Goyal said that a group of secretaries is working on this target and is crowdsourcing ideas. As many as 1.5 million ideas have already been collated, he said.Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose popularity is undimmed, has underscored that the government will not introduce policies merely to gain electoral advantage but will do so for the good of the entire country, Goyal said.On being asked about policy interventions planned in the runup to the elections, he said that it is a continuous process.

“This is a government which thinks in continuity,” he said. The general election will be held from April 19 to June 1 in seven phases.

On raids by investigative agencies such as ED, he said: “In this government we do not interfere with the working of any law enforcement agency”.

Trade, GeM
The minister said India’s aggregate FY24 exports will expand and the trade deficit would narrow “significantly”, despite the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea and strife in West Asia and Ukraine.

“In the beginning of the year, I had told my team that this should be the year of consolidation, because for two years we had a scorching pace of growth — from $494 billion to $776 billion in two years, 55% growth,” he said. “I had said that even if it is flat I am happy, but advance estimates give me the confidence that we will grow this year, both goods and services combined. Goods, it’s a very small figure… if at all there will be a small shortfall and services will grow… the final figures are awaited.”

Detailing his aim to have zero public interface between departments and stakeholders, he gave the example of the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT). The plan is to have one central office in Delhi while the regional outposts will become trade promotion offices, he said.

The minister said that India’s public procurement portal, the Government e-Marketplace (GeM), crossed `4 lakh crore of government procurement, from `1.06 lakh crore in 2021-22, thanks to the platform’s transparent processes.

Startups, FDI
With regard to the tax challenges faced by startups, he said there were two issues — angel tax and offshore entities, the latter having based themselves abroad initially for tax advantages and then wanting to get domiciled in India.

“On angel financing, we all know, fly-by-night companies were being used for hawala transactions or were creating capital through inflated value,” Goyal said. “That’s when the tax was brought in… It has an indirect impact on startups.”

The government has set up a mechanism for redressal with a Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) committee that will take up the matter.

The offshore entities looking to move to India had gone overseas for financial advantage.

“They wanted to do better tax planning, they enjoyed that benefit. Why do they want to come back —because they want to list in India as they will get valuation here only,” he said.

On the tax issues faced by startups related to Section 68 of the Income Tax Act, he said: “I have not been apprised of this specific issue. We can take it up with the finance ministry.” This refers to the clubbing of investments with income by the income tax department, as reported by ET on March 29.

With regard to plans for further easing of foreign direct investment (FDI) norms, Goyal said he wouldn’t be able to provide details, while adding, “We have an open mind and want technology in the country.”

Salt Pan Land
Goyal, who is currently a member of the Rajya Sabha, is contesting the Lok Sabha election from Mumbai (North). He spoke of his vision for the city of his birth, having spent his early years in the Sion locality of Mumbai, close to Dharavi and Antop Hill. Slum redevelopment, easing traffic woes and pollution control are among the items on his wish list for Mumbai. In this regard, he said the vacant salt pan land in and around the city could have potential.

“I will be delighted if that salt pan land could be used for things like slum rehabilitation or developing the waterfront of Mumbai… tourism. I would love to see that type of effort,” he said.

He said this could be a solution for other parts of the country as well.

“We are open to proposals and ideas that come from any part of the country… Wherever salt is not being produced we would be delighted if it could be used for some public use at the earliest,” Goyal said, adding that 60,000 acres of such land is available across the country.

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