Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday that reforms should be “insulated from the political process”. Calling for large-scale and deep-routed reforms, he said the process cannot be undertaken “in stealth”.
Modi was making a special intervention on the first day of the G20 plenary session in Brisbane, following an invitation by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott who is hosting the Leaders’ Summit.
“There is bound to be resistance to change or reform. But it cannot be done in stealth,” said Modi, indicating his approach to reforms and how he would pursue the process, given the pressures of a democracy.
Significantly, he said there is a need to “insulate reforms from the political process”. This is interesting given that certain ideas, like FDI in multi-brand retail, have met with opposition from within the BJP.
Outlining his vision on reforms to a global audience for the first time, he drew from his experience in Gujarat and talked about his government’s thrust on reforms.
Modi said globally, reforms are handicapped with the perception of being government programmes, and a burden on the people. “This needs to change,” he observed, adding that there is a need for reforms to be people-centric and driven by the people.
Modi said reforms must be deep-rooted. “You need to address the root causes while undertaking reforms. It should be technology-driven and lead to simplification of procedures,” he said, adding that it is a multi-stage process and must be institutionalised.
Abbott’s invitation to Modi may be linked to the interest of global leaders in understanding the reforms process in India, where reforms have been slow and irreversible.
Meanwhile, Modi projected a very confident face and asserted himself to his counterparts at various bilateral meetings. He told European Council President Herman Van Rumpoy there was a wind of change in India and no lack of political will now.
“Come, see for yourself,” he told Van Rumpoy, when the latter pointed out to him that lack of political will stalled the India-European Union Broadbased Trade and Investment Agreement initiated seven years ago in 2007.
Earlier on Friday, when British Prime Minister David Cameron invited him to his country, Modi is learnt to have told him that he was already getting many calls from the large Indian diaspora in UK for a visit.
At the dinner later in the day, he is reported to have asked Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to move fast on a plan to convert Varanasi into a smart city on the lines of Kyoto. He told Abe that the “Japan Plus” special policy to expedite investment by Japanese companies was already in place. Modi had promised this during his visit to Japan in September, and the plan was operationalised on October 18.