Expressing hope that India will be able to create “world class infrastructure” in another 20 years, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday said that his confidence in the timeline was based on how the country has become an “aspirational society” whose energies have been unleashed by the 1991 economic liberalisation.
Delivering the annual Defence Estates Day Lecture here, Jaitley said that in the quest for economic growth which would help improve the Indian state’s resources, the country hoped to gradually come up to the level of a middle-income nation as defined by multilateral agencies.
“In the next two decades, hopefully, India will be able to say that it has developed infrastructure, which is as good as anywhere in the world,” Jaitley said.
Noting that pre-1991, the country’s regulated economy and the “very modest rate of growth” did not permit much public spending on infrastructure, he said the situation had changed and “India today has the ability to afford world class infrastructure”.
“Post the liberalisation of 1991, we were able to unleash the energy and potential of the Indian economy. India has standardised itself to a growth rate of seven to eight per cent and is now a nearly $2.5 trillion economy,” the Finance Minister said.
Coupled with this, Indian society has become aspirational and supported reforms such as Aadhaar, demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) — all of which are promoting greater formalisation and digitisation of the economy and, therefore, greater resources for the state, he said.
Declaring that investment in infrastructure is essential for growth and attracting foreign investment, Jaitley said that success areas in infrastructure like highways, airports and roads are where private investment has come in and consumers are willing to pay for use of the infrastructure.
“It is a virtuous circle… without infrastructure, foreign investors will not come, so there is need to invest in this sector,” he said.
“In Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, for instance, private ports have become more efficient and commercially viable than major ports. The Shipping Ministry now lets out berths to major private sector players,” he added.