India is one of the most “open economies in the world”, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said here on Monday as he contrasted India’s approach to reform to an increasingly inward-looking world.
“When the world is turning increasingly protectionist, India is opening up,” he told investors, politicians and business people gathered at a meeting hosted by the U.K. India Business Council and Federation of India Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Minister is on a five-day trip to the United Kingdom.
“India has the potential for a growth rate higher than what we are achieving today,” he said. In the early days of liberalisation, he added, there were dissenting voices but those “fears have receded to the background”.
“You have much greater support for reform than any other time in history. The idea of a protectionist economy has not been an issue for India… We’ve opened up and it’s been more welcomed than opposed.”
Focus on reform agenda
Mr. Jaitley has used his public appearances during the trip to focus on India’s reform agenda, outlining the long-term impact it hoped the implementation of GST, and demonetisation would have in efforts to improve the collection of taxes, enabling the government to increase spending on infrastructure, and poverty reduction. He acknowledged there could be “teething problems” in the first few days after the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is introduced, but maintained confidence that it would come into effect by July or September.
Asked about the health of the banking sector, and particularly non-performing loans in the State banks, he said that the current quarter was looking better and that it was best to focus on the future, rather than “panic”.