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2017 OECD Economic Surveys: India 2017

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India is the fastest-growing G20 economy, thanks to ambitious structural reforms and low commodity prices. Deregulation and improvement in the ease of doing business have boosted foreign investment. However, investment is still held back by the relatively high corporate income tax rates, slow land acquisition processes, stringent regulations, weak corporate balance sheets, high non-performing loans and infrastructure bottlenecks. Quality job creation has been low, due to complex labour laws. A comprehensive tax reform would promote inclusive growth: implementation of the Goods and Services Tax would support competitiveness, investment and economic growth as will reducing the corporate income tax rate and broadening the base. Property and personal income taxes could be reformed to raise more revenue, promote social justice and empower sub-national governments. Ensuring clarity and certainty in tax legislation and employing more skilled tax officers would strengthen the tax administration. Spatial disparities in living standards are large. India is reforming relations across levels of government to empower the states and make policies more responsive to local conditions. Some states have taken the lead in improving the ease of doing business and now enjoy higher productivity and income. In rural areas, poverty rates are high and access to core public services is often poor. Farm productivity is low owing to small and fragmented land holdings, poor input management, and inefficient market conditions. In urban areas, agglomeration benefits are quickly reduced by congestion costs, in particular air pollution and long commuting time.

SPECIAL FEATURES: TAX REFORM; REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT

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Achieving strong and balanced regional development

While India’s per capita income is converging towards that of the richer countries, inequality has drifted up. Spatial inequality – across states and between urban and rural areas – is pronounced, with large differences in output per capita and in access to core public services, such as electricity, roads, and education. Implementing the GST will contribute to reduce trade barriers across states while recent changes in the federalism model are empowering states and promoting experimentation. Prompting states to modernise product and labour market regulations should allow firms in the organised sector to reach an efficient size, and promote job creation and rising incomes in all states. Raising the living standards in poorer states would also require increasing productivity in the agricultural sector by supporting farm consolidation and improving infrastructure in rural areas, particularly roads that connect villages to market towns, crop storage infrastructure and access to sustainable irrigation technologies. As working population moves out of agriculture, urbanisation will gather pace. However, exploiting cities’ potential for job creation, productivity gains and improvement in the quality of life would require better physical and social urban infrastructure. Local spending and regulatory competences should be clarified. Performance of local bodies should be assessed regularly to make them accountable. Municipalities should also be granted clear revenue-raising power (in particular property taxes and user charges for urban infrastructure) to enable them to fund better public infrastructure and services.

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