From the opulent opera house and glitzy World Government Summit in Dubai to the massive Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in Muscat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday made three speeches with pronounced pro-poor, pro-middle class tones, saying that the honest, hard-earned money of the country has been saved by the government through the use of technology and proactive decision making.
Addressing the Indian community in Muscat on Sunday evening ahead of his bilateral talks with Sultan Qaboos, Modi said that his government had saved a total of about Rs 1.4 lakh crore in four schemes over the last three years. “With clear intent and transparent policy of the government, we have been able to save money…we have also needed technical help,” he told an enthusiastic gathering in an hour-long speech.
Through Direct Benefit Transfers, the government had saved about Rs 57,000 crore, Modi said. “We have saved the money meant for the poor… earlier, they say, Aadhaar saved Rs 56,000 crore were being sent to middlemen, to fake accounts. We have ended this game… actually, we are saving the money of the middle class,” he said to applause from the audience. He then cited LED electrification of households, which he said had contributed to savings of Rs 60,000 crore, and said Rs 12,000 crore each had been saved on account of fertilisers through policy intervention and renegotiating old loss-making oil pacts with countries like Qatar and Australia.
“You tell me,” Modi asked the audience, “wasn’t that money for the poor? Should it not be their right?” to which the crowd responded enthusiastically in the affirmative. He was fighting corruption, Modi said, and people with black money were facing the law. “I can tell you… a lot of big fish are under investigation. In the last one year alone, lakhs of fake companies have been de-registered,” he said. To the cheering crowd of mostly blue-collar Indian workers, he spoke directly, “The remittances you send, that money should be well spent… that’s your hard-earned, honest money, and should be honestly spent by the government.”
The Prime Minister also mentioned the newly-announced insurance scheme for the poor, which he said the Indian media, has named “Modicare”. Mocking the Opposition for questioning its feasibility, he said, “When the country has decided to implement it, it will be done.”
Underlining his record of fighting corruption, he said, “Nobody says, Modi kitna le gaya… (How much money has Modi made) I can say with humility to those who have put me in this position, that I will not let them down.”
The Opposition, he said, was asking, “Modiji, kitna aaya? (how much has come back)”, referring to the return of black money to banks. But, earlier, he said, people would ask, “kitna gaya? (how much is gone)”, referring to the siphoning of funds in corruption scandals.
Earlier in the day, in two speeches delivered in Dubai, Modi spoke about his government’s use of technology as a tool for development, but also underlined the challenges that its misuse can present.
Delivering the keynote address at the World Government Summit, he said his government had saved Rs 56,000 crore — $ 8 billion — using Aadhaar-enabled direct benefit transfers in about 400 government schemes. In an affidavit filed in June 2017, the government had said the total recorded savings through the DBT scheme in two years — 2014-15 and 2015-16 — were Rs 49,560 crore.
The Prime Minister acknowledged difficulties arising out of the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the demonetisation exercise but likened them to teething troubles faced when moving to a new home. He stressed the pivotal role that technology plays in the growth of an economy, adding that the GST structure has been made possible only because of the use of technology.
The change in the governance was his theme in speeches made in both countries. In the morning, he told the Indian community in Dubai, “Desh badal raha hai (the country is changing)”. In the evening, he said, “Badlav mahsoos ho raha hai. (You can feel the change).” India was the Guest Country at the sixth edition of the Dubai-based World Government Summit, which is being attended by more than 4,000 participants from 140 countries.