Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a strong case for the private sector playing a larger role in the economy on Wednesday, saying that disparaging private enterprise was tantamount to doubting the ability of youth and suspecting their motives. Wealth creators are also important for the country since wealth can only be spread if wealth is created. “How can wealth be distributed to the poor, and how can jobs be created?” the Prime Minister enquired.
If the public sector is relevant, so is private sector involvement. Can the IAS be given sole responsibility for everything? Have we entrusted the IAS with the management of fertiliser plants and chemical plants? Then they’re going to be able to fly aircraft. What kind of capability have we gained by turning the nation over to babus? Babus, like the youth, belong to us. Modi said that the more opportunities we provide for our youth, the more he will gain.
The remark was made in the context of the government’s ambitious drive for PSU privatisation in the Budget, as well as claims that it wanted to hand over PSUs to private players of its choosing. The PM’s remarks during the debate on the motion of thanks to the President’s speech represented a full-scale welcome and unabashed celebration of private enterprise, if the Budget marked the jettisoning of the political class’s historical timidity about the generally accepted need to dispose of resource-guzzling and perennially loss-making public sector units.
Just a few PSUs will continue to operate in strategic sectors: Modi, the CEO of Niti Aayog, confronted the charges and doubts head-on. How will the private sector be left out? It’s possible that governments have slandered the private sector in the past. The world has changed, and today’s culture and nation have the potential to do so. How do we accuse them all of being dishonest? In the past, doing so would have gotten your votes, but times have changed. Everyone has talent, and they should all be given the chance to realize it. We should not accuse them of being dishonest. He said, “This culture isn’t going to work now.” Modi made his case for the private sector by highlighting its achievements. “The government encouraged private companies to manufacture cell phones, and as a result, even the poorest people now own smartphones. The government promoted private competition in the telecom sector, and today, cell phone call rates are almost non-existent, although data rates are among the lowest in the world. Consider the pharmaceutical industry. Are all of the player’s public-sector entities? “It is entirely due to the position of private pharma players that India has been able to serve the interests of humanity today,” he said. India is proud of the private sector’s contribution to national development and the enhancement of India’s international reputation. Look at vaccines; if India is helping humanity today, it is due to the position of private entrepreneurship, and we should have faith in our country’s youth,” he added. Modi described his support for the private sector, perhaps the most daring ever made by a politician on the floor of Parliament, as a recognition of the youth and middle class’s strengths and potential. His argument that babus cannot be the sole stewards of the economy should appease entrepreneurs who have protested about the bureaucracy’s mistrust of private enterprise.
To those who believed that political pressures had dimmed Modi’s pro-private-sector inclinations, leading him to put his faith in welfare politics instead, the speech completed the shift that had begun in the Budget. The government’s assertive tone was also a clear sign that privatization will go forward.