Prime Minister Modi Reviews State Of Economy With Sitharaman, Finance Ministry Officials
File photo: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman at a public rally in Amethi, Uttar Pradesh (Photograph: PTI)

Prime Minister Modi Reviews State Of Economy With Sitharaman, Finance Ministry Officials

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi comprehensively reviewed the state of the economy with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman as his government scrambled for solutions to tackle a fast-spreading slowdown in various sectors.

Modi, after delivering his Independence Day address, went into a brainstorming session with Sitharaman and all top officials in her ministry, sources privy to the development said.

The meeting, they said, was to assess the nature of the slowdown and its long-term impact. There are expectations that the government would come out with sector-specific stimulus sometime soon.

An emailed query sent to the spokesperson of the finance ministry remained unanswered.

India’s economic growth has slowed to 6.8 percent in 2018-19 —the slowest pace since 2014-15—consumer confidence is waning, and foreign direct investment has plateaued. International trade and currency war is further aggravating the problem.

While the finance ministry has remained tight-lipped on measures being contemplated to take the economy out, the Reserve Bank of India’s governor had earlier this month stated that the slowdown is more cyclical than structural.

But there are ominous signs showing that slowdown may be deep. The auto sector is facing its worst crisis in two decades and reports suggest thousands of job losses in the automobile and ancillary industry.

Also read: Auto Slowdown: More Layoffs May Be Coming In Sales, R&D

The number of unsold homes has increased, while fast-moving consumer goods companies have reported a decline in volume growth in the first quarter.

Though lending by banks to industries has shown a significant jump from 0.9 percent in the April-June quarter in 2018 to 6.6 percent for the same period this year, the same to job-creating MSME sector has slipped from 0.7 percent in 2018 to 0.6 percent in June quarter.

Also, direct tax collections have grown 1.4 percent. The growth in the goods and services tax collection till July, too, has been at 9 percent versus 18 percent estimated in the Union Budget.

Finance Minister Sitharaman had held series of meetings with bankers, industry, capital market players and real estate earlier this month to firm up steps to increase investments and boost economy

Also read: Nirmala Sitharaman Meets Realtors, Homebuyers; Assures Steps To Boost Liquidity, Demand

Foreign investors during their meeting with Sitharaman had suggested that higher surcharge on income beyond Rs 2 crore, which was imposed in the Budget, should not be applicable on FPIs. The government’s decision on surcharge had impacted the market.

On its part, the Reserve Bank of India, with inflation under its comfortable zone, reduced the key lending rate for the fourth successive time early this month to push economic activities. It has also asked banks to pass on the benefits of the rate cut to borrowers.

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