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Bluerprint for reforms in India – June 7th, 2015
By Mr A. R. Jumabhoy
PHARMACEUTICALS: India can play a major role in providing cheap health care access to the world’s poor. This is possible if Made-in-India modern or western medicines are provided worldwide. India has low-cost production facilities which can help manufacture high quality medicines for export, which will go a long way in making healthcare affordable to middle class and poor households globally. Foreign investment in Indian pharmaceuticals should aim at developing, producing and distributing medicines at a relatively lower cost as compared to the prices charged by the large pharmaceutical companies around the world.
GOODS & SERVICES TAX: GST is tax on consumption. For tourists who export and do not consume including household shopping and take-home purchases, there needs to be a refund of GST. We have already introduced it in some Asian countries.
SMART CITIES: There is an urgent need to build new towns. These must not only be built scientifically with specific master plans but should also have in place regulations to educate citizens ranging from school-goers to adults. Singapore is a shining example of how townplanning can be put into practice .
LITTERING: This is related to town planning. Since early days after Singapore gained independence, there are fines and punishments for those who spit on the street, cross the road haphazardly without waiting for the traffic light signals, smoke in public places and spread litter. Harsh deterrent punishments include a S$19,800 fine for throwing cigarette butts to the ground from units in high-rise
JUDICIAL REFORMS: Recommendations of the Bhagvanji Raiyani, Chairman of Forum For Fast Justice should be implemented with a sense of urgency. Fast track courts, setting up of new courts, sanctioning of new positions for judges and the number of lawyers and filling up existing vacancies are some of the initiatives to act upon immediately.
BANKING SYSTEM: Expansion of international banking and finance system to attract foreign investment and build trust among various stakeholders.
MICRO FINANCE: Current structure of micro-finance has several anomalies, is limited in scope and requires expansion. The structure should be built on the lines of programs devised by Mohammed Yunus for the poor in
Bangladesh where the borrowers also become shareholders. Instead of being used as high interest rate extracting mechanisms, micro finance units should be partners to stimulate entrepreneurship and growth.
SMALL & MEDIUM ENTERPRISES: India’s SMEs currently need to modernize and help their workers to upgrade skills. This can be done through education, in particular, by introducing programs for change in work ethics. In Singapore, we had a particular area developed for small and medium industries which are still functioning with one floor on top for the family housing. It is part of
the Housing Development Board plan.
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY: Innovation is the need of the hour. There are numerous examples in Israel,
China and US of start-ups funded by venture capitalists who have made it big by encouraging creativity to drive
the technology boom. New companies have become immensely successful globally. while existing behemoths such as Microsoft, Nokia, Blackberry, Apple and Samsunghave hit a plateau, even facing the mid-life crisis. The lesson to be learnt from their experiences is that innovation is a continuous game, or a perennial exercise.
WATER: Singapore’s New Water system should be emulated. Under this program, contaminated water which at times even includes human waste, undergoes a process of reverse osmosis to become purified drinking water.Desalination should also be considered. One enterprise working in this sector in India is Hylfux. Hundreds of such companies are needed as India has a long coastline to make salinated ocean and sea water fit for drinking. Cleaning and interlinking of rivers is a related project which is yet to take off even though the Indian government’s Ganga cleaning mission is three decades old. The cleaning of small Singapore river was a priority of Singapore’s then Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew which took 10 years to complete.
ANNUAL BUDGET: Financial reforms should be unveiled to the world without any further delay with particular focus on foreign investment that is sorely needed to fund India’s development agenda. Taxation regime should be made very simple and user friendly.
POLLUTION: Reforms and development should not be arbitrary and haphazard and must be balanced with environmental conservation and pollution control. Lessons should be learnt from China’s rapid industrialization and urbanization which have also made it one of the world’s most polluted and filthy country with smog becoming an integral part of the daily life of many of its citizens.
FOOD STORAGE: Billions of dollars worth of food rots or goes waste due to conspicuous consumption but more importantly lack of proper storage and processing. A complete overhaul of transport and storage logistics is needed including building of state-of-the-art grain silos and
cold storage facilities on a war scale.
TRANSPORT: Reforms in road and rail sector need to be dovetailed with expansion and building of new shipping ports in order to synchronize and bring the entire transport infrastructure on the same wavelength.
CORRUPTION: Tendering system for government contracts needs to be made transparent. Automation with online auctions will be crucial to achieve this aim.
*Mr Jumabhoy is a veteran businessman with a wide range of interests in India.