Modi government makes economic revival 'paramount' goal

NEW DELHI - India's new government pledged Monday to make the revival of the flagging economy its paramount target as it laid out its legislative agenda following Prime Minister Narendra Modi's landslide election victory.

In an address to the two houses of parliament which was drawn up by Modi's new cabinet, President Pranab Mukherjee said India's economy faced "extremely difficult" times and that inflation was "unacceptably" high.

The speech also included a series of ambitious policy goals that had been laid out in the election manifesto of Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including the creation of 100 new cities and a revamp of the railway network.

"The country is passing through an extremely difficult phase on the economic front," said Mukherjee. "Putting the economy back on track is paramount for my government." "My government will strive to get India on a high growth path, reign in inflation, restart the investment cycle (and) restore investor confidence," he said.

India's economy has been growing at below five percent for the past two years, way below the level needed to lift millions of people out of poverty, while inflation is currently running close to nine percent. Modi's right-wing BJP, which thrashed the ruling centre-left Congress party in marathon polls in April and May, made reviving the economy the main platform of its campaign as well as promising to clean up government.

In the speech, the president said that "my government will be predictable, transparent and fair" and "was committed to providing a clean and efficent administration focused on delivery".

The government would "make every effort" to fulfil its pre-election promise to bring in a new general sales tax and would also "embark on rationalisation and simplification of the tax regime" to make it less adverserial, Mukherjee said.

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