Economic Revival 'Paramount' Goal of Modi Government, Says President

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Economic Revival 'Paramount' Goal of Modi Government, Says President

President Pranab Mukherjee greets Prime Minister Narendra Modi

New Delhi:  Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government pledged today to fix the flagging economy and provide water, power and toilets to every home as it laid out its agenda in President Pranab Mukherjee's address to both houses of Parliament.

As he outlined the government's legislative priorities, the President said that India's economy faces "extremely difficult" times and that inflation is "unacceptably" high.

The speech, drawn up by Mr Modi's new cabinet, includes ambitious plans to overhaul the country's dilapidated roads and build a high-speed train network and more airports.

The speech also included goals contained in the election manifesto of the BJP, including creating 100 new cities to help millions flocking from rural areas every year searching for work.

"The country is passing through an extremely difficult phase on the economic front," President Mukherjee told lawmakers. "Putting the economy back on track is paramount for my government.

"We will work together to usher our economy into a high growth path, rein in inflation, reignite the investment cycle, accelerate job creation and restore the confidence of the domestic as well as international community."

India's economy has been growing at under five percent for the past two years, while inflation is running close to nine percent.

The administration would make "every effort" to fulfill its pre-election promise of a new general sales tax, President Mukherjee said, and make India's tax regime less "adversarial."

Mr Modi and the BJP thrashed the left-leaning Congress party in the national election and made reviving the economy the main plank of their campaign along with a promise to clean up government.

The government promised every family home would have basic amenities by the year 2022, an ambitious goal in a country where over 600 million people are forced to defecate in the open, according to the World Bank, and 300 million live without electricity.

Amid outrage over a wave of sexual attacks of women, the government pledged a "zero-tolerance" approach and to strengthen the overloaded criminal justice system regarded as inefficient and inept.

The opposition Congress condemned the agenda as "rhetoric", saying the PM has failed to explain how he would fulfill his promises.

But shares on the Bombay Stock Exchange, which have climbed over 20 percent since Mr Modi was declared the BJP's candidate last September, rose by almost one percent to 25,580.21 points after the PM's reform agenda was announced.

The president acknowledged public anger over corruption that tarnished the previous Congress government, promising a "predictable, transparent and fair" administration as well as a crackdown on illegal money leaving the country.

The president also pledged India would "engage energetically" with rival giant China, with Japan, and in areas including trade, investment and technology with the United States.

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