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DAVOS: Going beyond ease of doing business, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that the government is focusing on improving the “ease of living” for the common man, in what is seen as the latest slogan for better governance.
Modi made the reference to ease of living during an interaction with over five dozen chief executives over dinner on Monday night, which was attended by 42 global chiefs, including those from ABB, IBM, PepsiCo and Microsoft. A CEO present in the meeting told TOIthat the idea was to ensure that a citizen should not be hobbled in dealing with the State.
Since coming to power three-and-a-half years ago, Modi has sought to ease several rules such as getting documents attested by government officials and relaxing norms for issuing passports. Modi said over the last three years, nearly 1,400 central and state laws have been repealed. The last Economic Survey had also spoken about empowering citizens on tackling government rules and regulations.
A senior government official told TOIthat the government was also looking at an index on “ease of living” that will rank services on various parameters.
Sources said at the dinner meeting, most CEOs praised the government’s policies and several of them — such as ABB, IBM, Unilever, Canadian Pension Fund and commodities trader Trafigura — said they planned to invest more in India.
The dinner, which included a spread prepared by Taj chefs who had been specially flown in, started with Modi’s remarks on the steps that his government has taken to ease rules. There was also some comfort offered to industry, with the PM saying that he considered it to be a partner, a statement that will offer assurance to businesses, given a series of steps that have gone against them.
When it was CEOs’ turn, PM had a special anecdote or comment on each of them or their companies. For instance, he told PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi about adding juice in the soft drinks, a move that he has talked about in the past to help improve farmers’ income. Similarly, he spoke to Microsoft’s Satya Nadella about digital tools and mentioned the efforts made by Bharti Group and its chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal on Swachh Bharat. On Tuesday, when he met close to 100 CEOs over lunch, he adopted a similar approach, addressing most of them on a first-name basis and answering the questions that were posed to him. “The PM knows how to charm people,” said the chairman of an Indian company, who was present at both the meetings.
Sources said during the dinner meeting, many CEOs led by Unilever’s Paul Polman complimented the government on the improvement in ease of doing business rankings, where India climbed 30 places to end the year at 100. One of them suggested that the administration should set its sights higher. Modi responded by saying that this was only the beginning, said an official. The key theme was easing rules, with PM suggesting that rules should be such that there should be no need for businessmen to visit government officials.