Anxiety over the results of India’s general elections late last month is a thing of the past now. All stakeholders – domestic and global – interested in the nation’s economic growth have at least one worry less – stable government backed by strong mandate. And that gives hope to the notion of prioritizing the agenda for important structural reforms, imperative for India’s next phase of growth. A small but progressive glimpse was seen on the very next day of the ministry formation with the announcement that the government will soon come out with a new national policy on skills by including IoT, AI and ML to up-skill youth on these new, emerging technologies. Skill development in traditional trades of electrician, fitter, plumber, technician, coupled with a set of new age tech skills at much enlarged scale, as compared to the present numbers, will provide readily-available manpower to various sectors. This will reduce the learning curve on- the-job and increase productivity, thus making business profitable.
There are many more areas needing attention. Finalization of the four proposed labor codes is a relatively easy task the government might want to put behind it as an achievement. Though there is further scope to bundle the four codes into one, that seems like a far-fetched aspiration. But, we need to aspire, think big and do it fast. The restless new gen needs a platform and the government should play the role of a facilitator to extrapolate benefits of our demographic dividend (65% of our population is less than 35 years).
EPFO and ESIC have seen remarkable progress in digitization and transparency. The government must take a step back and make these benefits optional which means to let the employee control the means of choosing from a basket of available choices. We saw a reasonable success in the India stack – Paperless, Presenceless and Cashless – across government departments. The momentum should be continued.
Entrepreneurship faces perpetual roadblocks to their agility in the form of regulations. Over 25 numbers from different government departments. Over 3,000+ filings to be adhered to. The models equivalent of glasnost and perestroika are needed to cleanse our country’s inimical regulatory mechanism. Why do we need 25+ registration numbers? Can we not manage with a single, common Universal Enterprise Number which is all encompassing? Why do we need over 58,000+ compliances? Can we not simplify them further to create a fine balance with complying as a fair employer and profitable entrepreneur who will aid job creation.
It is anyone’s guess that government alone cannot generate employment. It has to build and foster an ecosystem wherein the private players partner with the government in generating employment. Make in India was conceived 5 years ago. It should be strengthened to promote manufacturing indigenously, depending upon strengths of various regions within the country. Farm to factory approach will enable youth to be gainfully employed. Smart City needs to cover many more towns to make them self-reliant hubs of economic activity.
India is not insulated from the global markets. Our internal policies, processes determine the internal levels of FIIs. Last year, the country saw systematic withdrawal of investments by FII. Simplification and rationalization of tax slabs will fuel domestic consumption as well as help attract FIIs back into the national economy. Trump successfully reduced corporate tax rate, thus, drawing money back from abroad into the US economy. The policy around increasing taxes on investments abroad too acted as a deterrent and ensured the money got invested inside the country. It also helped revive the fledgling economy and job creation. India could do well to pick a leaf. Besides, if the government doesn’t bring about drastic yet pragmatic structural reforms in the first year of its new term, chances of putting the nation on a high growth trajectory will turn grim. GST was a small such step. The government would do well to simplify the GST slabs into may be two to attract higher compliance. Many other tax reforms need quick attention.
It’s a unique time in India for changes. Our youth is optimistic and ambitious about the future. Modi 2.0 has the country’s mandate to take firm series of steps in a corporate way through the tenets of basic project management to transform the country and bring to life, the aspirations of over a billion citizens.
Editor- India Employer Forum