Brisbane: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday pitched for global cooperation on repatriation of black money stashed abroad as the summit of G20 countries opened here amidst intense pressure from within on tackling the menace.
Meeting G20 leaders for the first time in a summit, he made it clear that repatriation of unaccounted Indian black money abroad is his government's priority and also sent a message that economic reforms should be insulated from politics.
The two-day summit is being held at a time when tax avoidance by big multi-national companies were reportedly organising tax-lowering deals with Luxembourg and pressure from anti-corruption advocates, urging the major economies to stem the flow of illicit money across borders.
Opening the summit, host Prime Minister Tony Abbott vowed that the summit will deliver on an initiative to add USD 2 trillion to the global GDP, add more than 2 per cent to the global economic growth and millions of jobs.
Raising the black money issue at an informal meeting of leaders of the five-nation BRICS bloc, Modi also sought close global coordination to achieve the objective of bringing black money back home.
Modi set the tone on black money issue ahead of the G20 summit in the wake of his commitment to bring back every penny of black money stashed abroad.
"Repatriation of black money kept abroad is a key priority for us," Modi told the BRICS leaders -- Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and South African President President Jacob Zuma.
Calling for close coordination on the issue of black money kept abroad, Modi said this unaccounted money is also linked to security challenges.
External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin told reporters it was for the first time that there is focus on the "security dimensions" of black money.
Since coming to power, Modi has repeatedly said that bringing back black money is a priority and his government on its first day in office constituted a special investigative team (SIT) headed by a former Supreme Court Judge to unearth black money.
Later, addressing fellow G20 leaders at a retreat, Modi said the reform process is bound to face resistance and wanted it to be insulated from political pressures. Making a strong pitch for economic reforms, Modi said that reforms should lead to simplification of processes and that methods of governance must be reformed.
The retreat was hosted by Prime Minister Abbott at the Queensland Parliament House where the leaders met without aides shortly before the annual summit of the 20 industrialised and major economies kicked off at the Brisbane Convention Centre in the afternoon.
A barbecue lunch was served to the G20 leaders. Prime Minister Modi made it clear that reform has to be driven by the people and that it cannot be undertaken by "stealth".
Asserting that reform must be people-centric and people- driven, he said globally reforms are handicapped with perception of being government programmes and a burden on the people and this needs to change.
Noting that reform is a continuous multi-stage process and that it must be institutionalised, the Prime Minister said it must be technology driven and must have scale and address root causes.
The G20 host Australia yesterday vowed a "very aggressive" crackdown on tax avoidance. India is also seeking strong action by the Group of 20 against tax havens. "A key issue for me would be to highlight the importance of international cooperation against black money," Modi had said earlier.
India's call comes as anti-corruption advocates want G-20 countries to stem the flow of illicit money across borders by introducing public registers that reveal the people who ultimately own, control, or benefit from a business but use shell companies to hide their identities and avoid tax.
Transparency International, 24 leaders of civil society representing every continent published an open letter to G-20 leaders this week, urging them to take concrete actions to stop corruption and make the global system more transparent.
Establishing principles of transparency and clarity has been a focus of G20's Anti-Corruption Working Group and has long been on its agenda. Abbott, in his opening remarks, said "Yes, we want freer trade and we will deliver it. Yes, we need more infrastructure and we will build it."
"This is our message to the world: that governments can deliver, that governments can agree that the world can be better, that there can be higher jobs, higher growth and more jobs." he said.
"The people around this room are...the most powerful and influential people in this world," Abbott told the likes of United States President Barack Obama, Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian strongman Vladimir Putin.
"We may not always be able to agree but I hope we can at least be open with each other," he said.