The Congress on Saturday hit out at Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, criticising her “clueless” handling of the economic slowdown. The party also described the measures announced by her to tackle the fall in growth as “cosmetic, piecemeal”, PTI reported.
“I can only say that the finance minister is clueless as to how to deal with the gravity of the crisis,” Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said at an interaction with the media. “The steps announced today will not revive the Indian economy, they are purely cosmetic, piecemeal and also convey the arrogance of the government and its indifference to the seriousness of the situation.”
Sharma claimed Sitharaman lacked macroeconomic understanding, and pointed out that a comprehensive package for economic revival was expected from her, NDTV reported. He also claimed that the situation had deteriorated the last time she had made public measures to boost the economy.
The criticism followed Sitharaman’s announcement of a set of new steps to revive the economy earlier in the day. The finance minister also said inflation was under control and there were clear signs of a revival in industrial production.
According to government data released on Friday, retail inflation rose to 3.21% in the month of August, which was said to be the highest in 10 months. India’s economic growth rate had slipped to 5% in the April-June quarter, the lowest in over six years.
Sitharaman also announced a series of incentives for affordable and middle class housing and said a special window would be established to provide last-mile funding for housing projects stalled because of cash shortage. However, the projects must not be non-performing assets or facing bankruptcy proceedings under the National Company Law Tribunal.
The government will also provide Rs 10,000 crore to the fund and nearly the same amount will come from outside investors.
Sitharaman also announced incentives to promote exports. She said remission of duties or taxes on export products would replace the Merchandise Exports from India Scheme from January 1, 2020.
Among the other measures declared for exporters were fully electronic refund of input tax credit from month-end, action plan to reduce the time to export, or the turn around time, at airports and ports by December. A special free trade agreement utilisation mission was also announced that will focus on export houses to utilise concessional tariffs in each agreement that the country has with different nations.
The announcements were the third in a series by the finance minister to bolster flagging growth. Last month, Sitharaman unveiled a mega plan to merge 10 public sector banks into four entities with robust balance sheets, withdrew higher taxes for foreign portfolio investors, gave startups exemption from angel tax, declared a package to address distress in the auto sector, and said the government would infuse Rs 70,000 crore in state-run banks.
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