New Delhi: Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday said that India witnessed high levels of corruption, policy paralysis and lagged behind miserably in the Ease of Doing Business 2019 rankings under the tenure of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
Addressing the media on the World Bank rankings which come out in the month of October every year, Jaitley said, “India, during the ten years of the UPA, has witnessed the high level of corruption, policy paralysis and abandonment of all reforms. UPA-II, for its five-year tenure, witnessed a global ranking 134, 132, 132, 134 and finally 142. This was UPA’s miserable track record. India was the most difficult to do business with. Investors were wary of coming to India. On the contrary, there was a reverse flight of capital from India by the investors.”
Heaping praises on the performance of the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, Jaitley pointed out that India has climbed up to the position of 77 in a list of 190 nations.
Speaking about the Prime Minister’s announcement in 2014 that the government’s objective was to ensure that India should be amongst the first fifty nations in the ‘Ease of Doing Business’, Jaitley said that this seemed to be a tall promise.
“His call seemed to be a tall promise since India had to move up 92 positions. Amongst the top nations, in each of the ten categories, the competition is extremely tough and many countries with specific changes move ahead. Changes required a legislation, regulation, policy decisions and administrative reforms. They involved technical innovations. Moving up 92 positions is a daunting task. Not many were optimistic. They regarded it as an unachievable goal,” he asserted.
Jaitley said that the government started working on each of the criteria in 2014 itself.
“Announcement of a change, a legislation or a policy is not enough unless the effect of the same is felt on the ground. The World Bank doesn’t regard announcements as a worthy improvement. There is always a timeline between the reform and the upgrade,” the Finance Minister underscored.
Elaborating on the success of moving up by several positions in the rankings under the NDA, Jaitley said, “Having inherited the legacy of position No.142, we moved up, in the first two years, and retained position No.130. In the third year, we have made a major jump of 30 positions to reach position No.100 and in the fourth year, we have moved to position No.77. This is a 65 point improvement in the first four years. We are still 27 positions away from the target. The impossible now looks plausible.”
He also added that the country has improved in four years by 21 points in the ‘Starting of Business’, and by a massive 132 points in ‘Construction Activity’ in the same time period.
“The unified bylaws now involve an application for grant of construction permit online. The permits are to be received online within a specified time. If they are not received within that time, there is a deemed sanction. For ‘Getting Electricity’, we have improved a phenomenal 132 positions. On registration of properties, we are still at position No.166. On ”Getting Credit’, we are at position No.22. On ‘Protecting Minority Investors’, we are at position No.7 – our highest position in any category. On ‘Trading Across Borders’, which involves customs, we have improved significantly to position No.80 from an all-time high of 146,” he informed.
Further speaking on the enactment and implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, Jaitley said that India has improved in ‘Payment of Taxes’ by 37 positions but is still at 121.
In ‘Resolving Insolvency’, the country has improved 29 positions but is still at 108. On ‘Enforcement of Contracts’, it has improved 23 positions but is still at 163.
Jaitley divulged that mechanisms are in place on ‘Payment of Taxes’ and ‘Resolving Insolvency’, the GST and the NCLT.
“Early results seem to be quite encouraging and when this full year’s performance is taken into consideration, it would be logical to assume that we will move up significantly in these two categories,” Jaitley assured.
“Similarly, on ‘Enforcement of Contracts’, the Specific Relief Act has been amended to make the Act enforceable, leaving damages as only exception. Commercial courts have been set up in different districts of the country. The Arbitration Act has been amended to provide for expeditious arbitrations and the least judicial intervention,” the Finance Minister further said.
Speaking on the other areas where India has to make a special effort to further improve is in relation to ‘starting a business’.
Jaitley further emphasised that there are several processes which are relevant both at the level of the central government and the state governments and that much improvement is required in these areas.
“In each of these criteria, there has to be an emphasis on reducing the time period for any business activity, reducing the cost involved and cutting down the number of procedures. This by itself is not a formidable task. If we are able to keep the present pace of reforms in the above areas, the targets set by the Prime Minister would start looking a modest one. Only a focused and a purpose-oriented Government could have achieved this,” the Jaitley concluded.