Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has renewed a pledge to spend more than $1 trillion on infrastructure to create jobs for hundreds of thousands of young Indians and boost the economy.
The 100-trillion rupee ($1.35 trillion) plan — called “Gati Shakti,” which means momentum — was announced on India’s 75th Independence Day. Modi said Sunday that it would “break the silos” preventing more efficient transportation in Asia’s third-largest economy.
“This will reduce the travel time for the common man and the productivity of our industry will also increase,” he said during an address to the nation in the capital New Delhi.
The Indian leader did not detail a time frame for when the plan would be rolled out, saying only that it would launch in the “near future.” He added that it would go a “long way” toward making “local manufacturers globally competitive,” without going into specifics.
Modi frequently uses the anniversary of the India’s independence to make ambitious proposals for its future, including spending on infrastructure, one of his key goals for economic development. Last year, the leader promised to spend a similar amount on infrastructure “to pull the people and the economy of our country out of this [coronavirus] pandemic.”
“It is often said that during crises, the emphasis should be given on infrastructure so that economic activity is [faster] and people get employment and it generates a cascading effect,” he said in a speech on August 15, 2020.
A former finance minister — from the opposition Congress Party — mocked Modi for making similar promises on infrastructure expenditure for three years in a row, without providing any updates on past initiatives.
“India is thrice blessed. We now have a [300-trillion rupee] plan that will be launched in the near future,” P Chidambaram wrote on Twitter.
Creating jobs and boosting the economy has become critical for the Indian government after the country fell into recession for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century last year as it grappled with the Covid-19 pandemic. A sweeping, months-long national lockdown placed severe restrictions on business activity and travel.
The country had just begun to claw out of recession earlier this year, when a brutal second wave of the pandemic hit this spring.
In his Sunday address, Modi also pledged to make India energy independent by 2047. The country spends 12 trillion rupees ($161 billion) each year importing energy, he added.
“For India’s progress and to build a self-reliant India, India’s energy independence is the need of the hour,” he said.
Modi added that he wants India to increase its reliance on natural gas, ultimately becoming a “gas-based economy.” He also wants Indian railways to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2030.