FM Sitharaman shrugs off media queries on sliding GDP growth

The Minister expressed concern over low GST revenue, said govt can’t do much to control spiralling gold prices. She added there was no unrest among bank employees over banks’ merger

FM Sitharaman shrugs off media queries on sliding GDP growth

IANS

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday shrugged off questions on the GDP growth declining to 5 per cent in Q1, saying a dip in growth is part of the process.

The minister also expressed worry over the low GST revenue collections. The gross GST collection in August 2019 stood at Rs 98,202 crore, up 4.51 per cent from Rs 93,960 crore in the same month last year.

"GST revenue collections need attention and government needs to widen the GST revenue collections need attention and government needs to widen the basket," she said.

Sitharaman said a dip in the GDP is part of the growth cycle and the government is conscious that it has to respond.

She also said that she is not aware of any unhappiness among the bank employees over the merger of 10 banks into four. However, the bank employees’ associations have been protesting against the government’s decision as they fear huge job loss by the decision.

"A dip in GDP is part of growth. Our full focus is now on how GDP can rise in the next quarter," she said while addressing media on the actions and decisions of her ministry in 100 days of Modi 2.0 in Chennai.

"We will try to front-load infra spending as much as possible," she added.

The Modi government had to roll back many decisions announced in the Union Budget in July including rolling back the enhanced surcharge on foreign portfolio investors (FPIs). Also, the 'angel tax' provision for start-ups and their investors will have to go.

Data showed that FPIs have pulled out Rs 23,000 crore from domestic equities in July and August.

On the spiralling gold prices, the Minister said that it is not easy for government to control gold prices.

She said the government is working on a few steps for the auto industry.

"Government is conscious on the need to respond to the slowdown in the auto sector," the Minister said.

The auto industry is a big job creating industry and reported a 23 per cent drop in sales, lowest since 1997-98 is in the grip of a severe slowdown has evoked a lot of concern.

Responding to a query over GST rate cut for auto industry, Sitharaman said it is a matter to be decided by the GST council.

Sitharaman also said that the government will respond to home buyers' problems soon, adding that there was a need to work with other ministries for resolution of their problems.

Home buyers and builders both are suffering due to slowdown as buyers are suffering due to unfinished projects because of NBFC crisis which stopped liquidity to the builders while the builders are too hit by a large inventory as consumption has touched a very low patch.

On the spate of PSU bank mergers announced by her government that converted 10 PSU banks into four, Sitharaman said that the effective dates of bank mergers to be decided by the individual bank boards.

"Banks are grappling with low credit offtake recently and we are taking steps to boost consumer confidence in the market. The idea to merge the banks was so that all banks can benefit from each other," she said, adding that she is not aware of any unhappiness among the bank employees about the mergers.

The government also assured micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that they get all their pending GST refunds within 30 days, and further, all GST refunds will be paid within 60 days from the date of application.

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