Pegging India's GDP growth rate at 7.6 per cent for the fiscal 2015-16, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today said it is "much less" than its potential and expressed hope for better numbers next year.
Jaitley also said that India earlier had a bad reputation of not being the best place to do business, but the governments at the Centre and states have made considerable headway in reforming the system.
"As the current financial year ends today, we hope to finish this year at 7.6 per cent growth rate which is much less than our potential... we are hopeful that we will do better than this next year.
"Our current account deficit is well under control, inflation rate is under control. In last 16 months, the wholesale price index has been negative. Consumer index has been in the range of 4-5 per cent... interest rates are slowly coming down," he said.
"We had to reform our systems. There is a considerable amount of ease which has come in and we have moved up in global rankings," Jaitley said while delivering a K R Narayanan Oration series lecture here on the topic of 'New Economics of Financial Inclusion in India'.
The Narayanan Lectures are hosted by the Australian National University in honour of the former Indian President K R Narayanan. The annual oration is delivered by eminent Indian thinkers and the past speakers include Raja J Chelliah, Jagdish Bhagwati, U R Rao and P Chidambaram.
In his speech, Jaitley further said, "We had a fairly aggressive tax system which we have rationalised."
Stressing on the importance of GST, Jaitley said its implementation could further add to the growth story of India.
Elucidating on long term vision for India, Jaitley indicated that there were very challenging tasks for the ruling government to bring and integrate rural India with similar facilities with urban India.
"Our main thrust of expenditure now would be development of rural areas and infrastructure sector," Jaitley said.
"We have 700,000 villages in India and by 2019 we intend each village to be connected by a regular pucca road," he said, adding that the allocation for rural road works were increased by almost three times this year.
Jaitley also talked about various initiatives taken by the Modi government like Swachch Bharat, Aadhaar and Jan Dhan.
He later attended a special reception organised by the Indian High Commission here.
Jaitley further said the entire benefit that government received from the gas subsidy campaign would be used for gifting gas connections to those five crore lowest income group families who were using conventional chulahs.
Speaking on Mudra scheme which was introduced last year by the government, Jaitley said the scheme has turned out to be a runaway success that has allowed "unfunded" people to set up their small businesses.
"For the very first year we have been able to support over 22 million people with the Mudra scheme which was launched last year," Jaitley said, while citing several measures on financial inclusion undertaken by the government.
He further said that the government is all set to launch another initiative called 'Stand up India' in the coming week which will work for SC/STs and women.
"Every branch in India, public or private, has been requested to support one entreprenuer from SC/ST category and one from the women category," Jaitley said.
"We will give them a loan of Rs 1 crore and create about 250,000 new entreprenuers coming from these sections which has not seen too many entreprenuers coming up," he added.
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