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More reforms ahead, India’s development my sole life mission, says Modi

Himachal Pradesh elections

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday promised to undertake more reforms leveraging the pace built up by India’s higher ranking in World Bank’s latest ease of doing business survey to realise the nation’s economic and social development, which he said was his sole purpose in life.

Addressing industry leaders at a conference on business reforms organised by the commerce and industry ministry in New Delhi, Modi said the World Bank’s ease of doing business survey for 2018 has shown that “tremendous change” in business climate can be possible with sustained efforts. In the survey released on 31 October, India’s ranking jumped a record 30 notches up to 100 on account of regulatory reforms and policy changes at union and state levels.

“I am confident that with continuous efforts, we can improve further. After the ranking improved to 100 from 142 (in the survey published in 2014) I am not able to sleep. I wish to do more…I have one life and one mission,” Modi said. Ease of doing business will lead to ease of life too, he said.

The prime minister assured that while the ease of doing business further improves, the government is also committed to reducing the cost of doing business for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), a sector that accounts for a large number of jobs. According to data available from the ministry of micro, small and medium enterprises, there are about 56 million MSMEs accounting for about 110 million jobs in the country.

Modi said that India has reached a position in ease of doing business from where further improvement is easier. “In management terms, we have achieved critical mass for a swift take off,” said the prime minister.

In the forthcoming meeting of the goods and services tax (GST) Council on 10 November, the federal indirect tax body will take further steps with the support of state governments to strengthen the economy and the financial system, Modi said. All the concerns raised by small businesses and traders in the new indirect tax regime are being addressed.

MSMEs with annual sales less than Rs1.5 crore, which were earlier exempted from the central excise duty, have come under the GST regime on account of a lower Rs20 lakh sales threshold for GST. The new sophisticated IT-driven tax regime has put a compliance burden on small businesses as large businesses tend to prefer GST registered material and service suppliers. The GST Council has already taken several measures to ease the compliance burden of small businesses. The next meeting of the council is expected to further liberalize the ‘composition scheme,’ a simplified tax payment scheme for small businesses, and lower tax rates.

World Bank chief executive officer Kristalina Georgieva, who was present on the occasion, said that India’s improved ranking in ease of doing business should translate into more energy for future reforms. Nations should not only implement reforms but also have a proper feedback mechanism, Georgieva said.

Commerce minister Suresh Prabhu, who was also present on the occasion, said the government was working on a ranking system for districts to instil the spirit of competition within administrative units of states to improve the business climate. ‘India’s growth story will be the story of its entrepreneurs,” said Prabhu.

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