India is rolling out a "faceless tax assessment" system to forestall any discretion or harassment in tax collection, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday as he highlighted major reform initiatives launched by his government in the financial sectors in the last five years.
Hard-selling India as one of the most attractive investment destinations globally, PM Modi also said the country has stopped working in a routine, bureaucratic manner and was undergoing "transformative changes" in its march towards economic and social development.
The prime minister was speaking to a select group of top business leaders at an event to mark the golden jubilee of the Aditya Birla Group's operations in Thailand.
PM Modi also asserted that India now has one of the most people-friendly tax regimes in the world and that efforts are on to further improve the taxation system.
PM Modi specifically mentioned how rolling out of the Goods and Services Tax has resulted in the economic integration in the country, adding his government was working towards making it more people-friendly.
"In the last five years, we have lowered the tax burden on the middle class considerably. We are now starting faceless tax assessment so that there is no scope for discretion or harassment," the prime minister said.
There has been criticism by the Congress party that tax officials in the Modi government have been harassing businesses and political leaders critical of the ruling establishment.
In August, Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman conveyed to India Inc. that they will not face any harassment as a new system is being put in place to make officials accountable for their actions.
"In today's India, the contribution of the hard-working taxpayer is cherished. One area where we have done significant work is taxation. I am happy that India is one of the most people-friendly tax regimes," PM Modi.
Talking about various reform measures, PM Modi said the direct benefit transfer (DBT) has ended the culture of middlemen and inefficiency.
"It has left little scope for error. The DBT has saved over USD 20 billion so far."
In his address, PM Modi also talked about cut in the corporate tax rates.
"You would already have heard of India's decision to cut the corporate tax rates. Our GST has fulfilled the dream of the economic integration of India. We want to work towards making it even more people-friendly," the prime minister said.
The prime minister said it was the best time to be in India and that many things such as foreign direct investment, ease of doing business, ease of living and productivity are rising while tax rates, red-tapism, corruption, cronyism are on a decline.
"All of what I have said just now makes India one of the world's most attractive economies for investment. India received USD 286 billion FDI in the last five years. This is almost half of the total FDI in India in the last twenty years," PM Modi said.
The prime minister also referred to India's dream to become a five trillion-dollar economy.
"When my government took over in 2014, India's GDP was about USD 2 trillion. In 65 years, USD 2 trillion. But in just 5 years, we increased it to nearly USD 3 trillion," he said.
PM Modi said India has seen many success stories in the last five years in various sectors and the reason for it is not only the government but also the people.
"India has stopped working in a routine, bureaucratic manner. Transformative changes are arising due to ambitious missions undertaken. When these ambitious missions are energised by the partnership of people, they become vibrant mass movements. And, these mass movements achieve miracles. Things that were supposed to be previously impossible have now become possible," he said.
The prime minister also elaborated on steps being taken by his government to improve ease of doing business in the country and their impact reflected in several ratings about the India growth story.
"India has jumped 79 places in the World Bank's ''Ease of Doing Business'' rankings in five years. From 142 in 2014 we are 63 in 2019. This is a massive achievement. For the third year in row, we are among the top 10 reformers. The variables for doing business in India are many," he said.
"We are a large and diverse nation. There are the central, state and local governments. In such a context, a directional shift shows our commitment to reforms. The people and government came together to make the business environment better," the prime minister said.
The prime minister said India was receiving substantially more tourists in the last few years, which he said, meant that "our efforts on the ground are bearing fruit. The fact that India has better roads, better air connectivity, better cleanliness and better law and order is bringing the world to India."
In his address, PM Modi also congratulated the Aditya Birla group for its commendable work in Thailand, saying it is creating opportunities and prosperity for many in the country.
PM Modi arrived on a three-day visit on Saturday to attend ASEAN-India, East Asia and the RCEP summits.