India’s Rankings with The World Bank: A Conversation with Mr. Shashank Priya

Profile Photo - Shashank Priya

India is currently ranked 100th on the World Bank’s “ease of doing business” scale, an impressive rise from its130th position in 2016. USINPAC interviewed Mr. Shashank Priya, an officer at India’s Goods and Service Tax (GST) office, to discuss India’s current ranking and to talk about the steps that are still needed for its continued improvement. Mr. Priya is one of the architects of India’s recent tax changes, a primary component of India’s rise on the ranking scale.

Mr. Priya recently attended a World Bank conference on the topic of improving a country’s ranking. The World Bank assesses a country’s “ease of doing business” on ten parameters. These are: Starting a Business, Obtaining Construction Permits, Getting Electricity, Registering Property, Getting Credit, Protecting Minority Investors, Paying Taxes, Trading Across Borders, Enforcing Contracts, and Resolving Insolvency. According to Mr. Priya, the Government of India has been working on reforms in every parameter. Some of the factors responsible for India’s rise are the improvements that India made in procedures relating to starting a business and obtaining construction permits. In this regard, India has made doing business easier by providing for similar applications for procuring a Permanent Account Number (PAN) and a Tax Account Number (TAN), and by improving the online application system. For construction permits, India has streamlined the process by implementing an online system, thereby reducing the number of procedures required and the time involved to obtain a building permit.

As another step, India strengthened access to credit by adopting a new law on insolvency and amending the rules on the priority of secured creditors outside reorganization proceedings. For the payment of taxes, India introduced administrative measures that made it easier to comply with corporate income tax provisions and that allowed for payments to be made electronically to the Employees’ Provident Fund. India also eliminated the Merchant Overtime Fee, typically collected for inspections of export cargo done outside office hours, thus reducing the time it takes to comply with import regulations. All these factors have contributed to bringing more multinational corporations to India, leading to improving its rankings as well as boosting its economy.

According to Mr. Priya, the major tax reform happened in July of 2017 when a new indirect tax, GST, was introduced across India subsuming the then existing 15 central and state taxes and a plethora of other charges. Before the implementation of GST, taxpayers had to maintain multiple accounts, file multiple returns, pay multiple taxes, and face multiple audits from different authorities. Mr. Priya explained that GST, in subsuming all these taxes, now needs only one CGST (Central Goods and Services Tax) and one SGST (State Goods and Services Tax) to be paid on each transaction. This system simplified the taxes for consumers and businesses and has made it easier to do business.

Although India has undertaken consistent efforts in the last four years to reform the business climate, there is still a lot more to do. According to Mr. Priya, one of the factors holding India’s ranking down is the speed of the implementation of these reforms. He opined that “Reforms are to be carried out in a phased manner. There is a time lag between actual implementation and their appreciation by the majority of respondents.” Even though all these reforms require time, resources and money, Mr. Priya underlined India’s commitment to this process thus: “The implementation of reforms, whether of indirect or direct tax or new norms for registering companies or improving the environment for trading across the borders, are all aimed to improve the trade facilitation and business climate in India, which would help spur economic activity and investment. All this will help with the economic development of the country.”

From climbing up the World Bank rankings to becoming the sixth largest economy in the world, India is continuously progressing. It expects its ranking to improve as a result of its sustained efforts and commitment.

About Mr. Shashank Priya:

Mr. Shashank Priya is an officer of the Indian Revenue Service and serves the Government of India as Joint Secretary in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council, a Constitutional body with the mandate to recommend all tax rates, laws and rules and regulations thereunder, to the Union Parliament and the State Legislatures. For the last three years Mr. Priya has worked in various capacities of GST, such as Commissioner, GST, Additional Director General, GST and now as Joint Secretary, GST Council. He has contributed to legislative activities relating to the GST like the Constitution Amendment Bill, the Model GST Law and the GST Rules. He has also prepared the GST training materials and put together outreach programs for the Central and State Government officers. He recently participated in the deliberations of the World Bank team on the Ease of Doing Business Report, particularly relating to the ‘Paying Taxes’ Section.

Mr. Priya has 30 years of work experience on matters relating to indirect tax and the World Trade Organization. He served as a Professor in the Centre for WTO Studies in the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade and dealt extensively with issues relating to the WTO and Trade Facilitation. He worked for five years in the Trade Policy Division of the Department of Commerce as Deputy Secretary/Director. In these roles, he has represented India in negotiations in the WTO Ministerial Conferences in Cancun, Geneva and Hong Kong as well as in numerous WTO Committee meetings. He was the prime negotiator for bilateral trade agreements with SAFTA, Chile, Mercosur and ASEAN. He also has worked in different fields of Customs, Central Excise and Service Tax such as Central Excise Division, Anti-Smuggling, Appraising, Vigilance, Export Promotion and Service Tax.

He has contributed articles on WTO issues in newspapers/journals like the Economic Times, The Hindu Businessline, and eSocial Sciences and is the author of two books, namely ‘Review of Trade Policies of India’s Major Trading Partners’ and ‘Trade Facilitation Gap Analysis for Border Clearance Procedures in India.’ He has also authored a paper for UN ESCAP, Bangkok on ‘Cross-Border Paperless Trade’. Mr. Priya currently resides in New Delhi.

4 Policy Pillars for the Indian EV Industry

Electric vehicle (EV) use has been on the rise in recent years, but in India that market has started to stagnate. Previous attempts from the government have proven to be unfruitful at stimulating the EV industry in India. In this blog, we look at a study done by the International Energy Agency about how to implement effective policy. There are four pillars that the International Energy Agency accredits to successful policy: research and development support, achievable goals, financial incentives, and increasing overall value of EVs.


There are currently only two companies manufacturing electric vehicles in India, TATA and Mahindra. For the EV industry to grow, there must be sufficient competition between manufacturers. Such competition would increase the quality of products and decrease the prices for buyers. However, considering the relatively new technology that EVs rely on, companies must first invest significant time and money into research and development to produce efficient cars that can compete in a market dominated by petrol and diesel-powered vehicles. If the Indian government were to fund manufacturers’ research on the subject, it would drastically increase the quality of the products and the number of competitors in the market. In early 2017, the government announced plans to fund up to 60% of R&D for electric two-wheelers, three-wheelers, and commercial vehicles. If such plans are carried out, companies would, with support from the government, be able to manufacture EVs that can compete with petrol and diesel powered vehicles.


Originally, the Indian government had set an ambitious goal of having only electric vehicles on the road by the year 2030. This perfectly exemplifies the overzealous and unattainable targets that are detrimental to the industry. Seeing as only two car manufacturers in India currently produce electric vehicles, claiming that the entire population will use EVs by 2030 exposes the Indian government is naiveté on the subject. Such goals fail to serve as motivation for manufacturers because they know the targets cannot be reached anyway, and therefore do not even attempt to achieve them. The CEO of Mercedes Benz India, Roland Folger, believes that the Indian government should not “rush with the all-EV push,” demonstrating the lack of belief in such goals from a company that is a significant part of the industry. Recently, the government announced that it is revising its goal to 30% electric cars by 2030 – a far more achievable target. This revised goal is likely to engender motivation in manufacturers, potentially helping the industry. However, smaller-scale goals – such as individual sales targets for companies – would also help drive manufacturers towards more precise targets.


India could use the example set by the United States and implement policies that would incentivize the purchase of EVs by consumers. Tax credits and tax exemptions could be granted, potentially stimulating demand. Standard tax exemptions could be implemented for the purchase of new cars, and additional exemptions could be applied for vehicles with larger batteries or houses that install charging stations. If demand increases as a result of these incentives, domestic manufacturers will be forced to increase production. Furthermore, automobile companies that were otherwise not manufacturing EVs will recognize the vast potential for profits and will, therefore, enter the industry, increasing competition and reducing prices.


Considering the high property rates in most Indian cities, rates for parking spots in housing societies could be reduced for owners of electric vehicles. EV owners could be exempt from toll fees and the proposed road tax (the road tax is not yet in place). Companies and businesses could also be offered tax exemptions for installing charging stations in office parking spaces. In all, several policies could be implemented to increase the value, both monetary and non-monetary, of electric vehicle ownership.

Indian’s government could learn from other countries in the field of electric vehicle policy. The stuttering Indian EV industry could undoubtedly benefit from policy changes that have proven successful in countries such as the United States and Germany. However, arguably the most important lesson to be learned from other countries is not from their success, but from their failures. Even the United States, which has one of the largest EV industries in the world, was unable to reach its goal of selling 1 million electric vehicles by 2015. The goal, set by President Obama, proved to be far too ambitious as the United States had only achieved about 400,000 electric vehicle sales by the end of 2015. Thus, India must recognize that the transition to electric vehicles will be a slow one, as both consumers and producers collectively and steadily commit to the cause. Indeed, the success of the EV industry does not solely depend on the production and purchase of vehicles, but on a large scale structural change to the Indian economy. Small steps must be taken in order to change the transportation infrastructure in the country entirely, that will eventually result in a transition towards electric vehicles. Recognizing the magnitude of this task is the first step to shaping a successful EV industry.

India Becomes the Sixth Largest Economy in the World


According to the World Bank’s updated data for 2017, India is now the sixth largest economy in the world standing at $2.597 trillion at the end of last year. India surpassed France, which stands at $2.852 trillion. This growth is an impressive feat, considering ten years ago India’s GDP was half to that of France. India’s GDP saw a growth of 7.7% in the last quarter of 2017, contributing to the overall larger number.

There are a few factors mainly responsible for India’s stable growth. Firstly, there has been more stabilization of growth within sectors such as agriculture, industry, and services. Second, India’s overall economy has also shifted towards the services sector, where growth is more stable overall. Additionally, growth has also been broadly diversified, growing the fastest in services, then industry and less so in agriculture. Finally, a massive contributor to the stability of growth has been India’s resilience to shocks, both domestic and external. For example, the 2008 global recession affected India only the first year. India immediately bounced back in 2009, with an impressive growth rate of 8.5%. India’s economy is diverse in sectors and geography, and this largely contributes to the resilience of the country’s GDP. India’s production structure is diverse due to its ability to produce a multitude of products, commodities, and natural resources. India’s trade basket is also broad, consisting of a diverse set of trading partners, so a slowdown in one part of the world does not have a drastic effect on India’s economy overall.

All of these factors have helped India grow consistently. India’s recent accelerated growth mainly stems from an increase in consumer spending. Estimates suggest the growth will be continuous and accelerated. According to the International Monetary Fund, India is projected to grow a total of 7.4% this year and 7.8% in 2019. India has been undertaking multiple consumptions, and tax reforms, that are seemingly working. According to the Center for Economics and Business research, India has a good chance at becoming the world’s third largest economy by 2032, given current trends continue.

However, another factor to consider is that India is also the second most populated country in the world, set to become to the first, surpassing China, by 2024. India has a population of 1.3 billion people. When considering those numbers, India’s $2.59 trillion does fall short of providing everyone in the country with sufficient income to live well. India’s GDP per capita is $1,940, twenty times lower than France’s $38, 477 and about four times lower than China’s $8,827. Even though India’s GDP has been growing consistently, its GDP per capita has seen a lot more fluctuation and an overall decline in the past fifty years, due to its growing population. The impact of India’s GDP growth can only be wholly beneficial if population growth slows as well and income inequality stays low. There is a still a long road ahead to development for India, but it is definitely in the right direction and on the way.

India’s economy has been growing consistently at impressive rates. In addition to the 7.7% growth in the fourth quarter, India grew a total of 7.1% in 2016 and 8.0% in 2015. Since the 2008 recession, India’s GDP growth has not fallen below 5.5%, staying consistently higher. However, the country’s growth is not just limited to recent short-term numbers. In addition to short-term fluctuations, India has had a long-term steady growth as well. India’s long-term economic growth has steadily accelerated over a fifty-year period, without any prolonged reversals. GDP growth from the 1970s to 80s averaged 4.4% but accelerated to 5.5% from the 1990s to early 2000s, and further 7.1% in the past decade despite the recessions. Point to be noted here is that, not only is the economy growing at an accelerated pace but the growth of the economy is also accelerating. This accelerated long-term growth proves that the current exponential growth is not an exception but a continuation of the trend. It also goes to show that it is possible to retain the current growth into a long-term trend.

India Could Learn from American Success in Electric Vehicle Industry


As awareness about climate change increases has sparked the move away from gas and diesel powered vehicles and a move towards electric vehicles (EVs). Countries all around the world are introducing programs and policies to make electric vehicle ownership more attractive to prospect consumers, and many of these programs are having considerable success. The United States has implemented several policies to jumpstart the EV market, and as a result, the United States is now home to one of the largest electric vehicle markets in the world. In 2017 nearly 200,000 electric vehicles were sold in the United States. The December 2017 sales confirmed that electric vehicles held a share of 1.6% of the overall vehicle industry in the United States, with sales between June 2016 and June 2017 increasing 45% from the previous 12-month period in comparison to the overall EV market from 2012 to 2016 which experienced an annual growth of 32%. Such statistics are encouraging for the future of the industry.

As the EV industry in the United States continues to grow, the Indian market for electric vehicles has stuttered. In 2016, electric vehicle sales in India had only just passed 4,800 units. Demand for EVs is sparse, and the infrastructure and regulations necessary to spur the market are insufficient. While legislature in the United States emphasizes incentives for buyers of electric vehicles, Indian government policies primarily look to incentivize the production of electric vehicles by providing subsidies and tax rebates to producers. In 2010, a massive subsidy package for electric vehicle manufacturers of up to ₹950 million was announced, but this plan was swiftly ended in 2012. In 2015 the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (FAME) plan were announced, along with ambitious goals of 7 million EVs on Indian roads by 2020 and production of exclusively electric vehicles by 2030. FAME provided further subsidies to producers, along with incentives for state governments to introduce EVs in public transport. However, such incentives were only available to cars manufactured in India; this, in turn, reduced market competition to only Indian manufacturers, thus further increasing the price of electric vehicles and deterring possible buyers. While FAME also laid out plans for charging infrastructure around the country, there are still less than 250 charging stations in all of India, making EV ownership a difficult task. Thus, with no incentives and high costs for buyers, and low demand, the Indian EV market is struggling to gain momentum.

Considering the difficulties faced by the Indian EV industry, the government could certainly use the example of the United States to guide their own policy decisions and spur the market. A study by the International Energy Agency suggested that four major policy factors contribute to electric vehicle markets. Those included: research and development support, clear and achievable targets, financial incentives, and policies that increase the value of owning electric cars. Indian EV policy can be implemented in all four areas, with increased funding for EV research potentially reducing the costs for producers, and more achievable targets engendering genuine motivation from EV manufacturers. Financial incentives similar to those in the United States (such as tax credit and exemptions) could also stimulate the industry while other policies, such as reduced toll fees and dedicated parking spaces for electric vehicles could be implemented to increase value for EV owners.

The Indian government has already announced plans to reduce the bureaucracy surrounding EV ownership, eliminating one of the significant factors that deterred people from buying EVs. The government could even go one step further by introducing incentives for local governments to purchase EVs for municipal fleets. Considering a large number of public transport vehicles in India, this could help lead the population by example, garnering a collective sense of urgency about this matter. If India were to use the United States as an example and implement similar policies, then India would not only gain a flourishing EV industry but also achieve better, cleaner air and a better overall economy.

Indian-American Candidates Fundraise a Record-Breaking Amount of Money

Indian-American political candidates are breaking a whole new glass ceiling as 20 U.S. Congressional candidates raised a record 15.5 million dollars in political donations this election period. Seven of the candidates have each individually raised over 1 million dollars this election period, and leader of the pack, U.S. Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, has raised more than $3.5 million in his re-election campaign in Illinois’ 8th Congressional District. Ro Khanna, who is seeking re-election from California’s 17th Congressional District, has raised $2 million, according to the Federal Election Commission. Congressman Khanna is followed by Dr. Ami Bera ($1.7 million), who is seeking his fourth consecutive term in the House in California’s 7th Congressional District. Pramila Jayapal, running for a second term in Washington’s 7th Congressional District, has raised $1.3 million. These are awe-inspiring numbers considering the elections are still not for another four months.

The impressive amount of funding goes on to show the support received by Indian-American candidates. Indian-American candidates have established a solid foundation of community supporters who are not afraid to back their support with their financials. The networks of family and friends that exist between Indian-Americans is not only growing in numbers but also increasing in political sophistication and organization. The record-breaking funds raised speak to the dedication of the Indian American community supporting these candidates. In these contemporary times filled with constant advertisements, campaign donations can go a long way to help get the word about the candidates’ race, and their platforms. Overall, it is great to see the community support behind Indian American candidates as they make a bid to represent their respective constituents.

If you would like to support a candidate in your district or find out more about the Indian American candidates running this election period, please visit the USINPAC YouTube page and check out our 2018 Summer Interview Series.