Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday said in the Rajya Sabha that the government has not undertaken any study on the impact of demonetisation on the economy, especially on micro, small and medium scale enterprises and employment. She added that growth remains a top priority of the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party government, PTI reported.
Sitharaman said the moderation in growth momentum in the year 2018 to 2019 was on account of lower growth in agriculture, trade, transport, defence, communication and services related to broadcasting.
“If the impact on the low growth is because of outcomes from these sectors, the manufacturing sector has had a certain fall but which is not attributable to demonetisation,” the minister was quoted as saying by the news agency.
Sitharaman said in the last quarter there could have been a decline but that steps have been taken to improve the economy. “But, we are still the fastest growing economy,” she said.
She cited figures of other countries to show India’s progress. She said the United States has grown between 1.6%, 2.2%, 2.9% and 2.3% in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, and China’s growth decelerated from 6.7%, 6.8%, 6.6% and 6.3%, whereas, India, she said, was still well above 7% at 7.3% growth.
“While the concern of member is well taken about the last quarter’s growth having come down, it is still India which is growing at the fastest rate and the figures are before us,” she replied in response to a query.
India is no longer the world’s fastest-growing major economy, and serious questions are being raised about the validity of India’s statistical data. In May, the government had announced that India’s growth rate had declined to 5.8% in the last quarter of the financial year 2018-’19. This was the slowest pace of growth in 17 quarters.
Sitharaman said as per estimates available from Central Statistics Office, growth of Gross Domestic Product at constant prices was 6.8% in 2018 to 2019, as compared to 7.2% in 2017 to 2018 and 8.2% in 2016 to 2017. “Economic growth is high on the agenda of the government,” Sitharaman added.
The minister also stressed that the government has undertaken several steps to ensure more money goes to people. The Prime Minister’s Kisan Samman Yojna, and the Pension Yojna, where money goes through Direct Benefit Transfer into the people’s hands, were some of the ways through which people are getting the benefit, she claimed.
“Over and above that, in order that institutions will have to extend more credit facilities for industry and for those entrepreneurs in the ground, the credit situation and also taking care of resolutional stressed assets through banks is also happening,” she said.
To remain focused on matter related to growth, the government has also constituted a five-member Cabinet committee on investment and growth chaired by the prime minister, said Sitharaman.
Correction and clarification: The article has been updated to remove information from a report which the finance minister later denied.