Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday addressed a press conference in Chennai to highlight the achievements of the Modi 2.0 government and talked about the abrogation of Article 370, 35A and rolling out of GST and Income tax reforms. Sitharaman also responded to a plethora of questions ranging from the slump in the economy to the slowdown in the automobile sector, among other political issues.
When asked about the slowdown in auto sector, which is said to be the worst in nearly two decades, the finance minister said, “It is true that the automobile sector in India had a good time till two years ago, there was definitely a good upward trajectory for automobile sector. The automobile sector is affected by a range of issues such as roll out of Bharat Stage VI emission standard, higher registration fee, the mindset of millennials who prefer to use ride-hailing services such as Ola and Uber over committing to an EMI for purchasing a vehicle, besides the use of public transport such as metro.”
"There is a demand to consider reduction of GST rates, what will be considered I can’t say, as it has to be decided by the GST Council, she said when asked if the GST on automobiles will be cut ahead of the festive season," she added.
Commenting on Centre's decision to merge different public sector banks, she said, "The government has announced merger of 10 public sector banks (PSBs) into four strong lenders with countrywide networks and global reach to boost credit and revive economic growth. The banks will benefit from each other's strength.A growing economy needs good banks. That was the reason behind merging banks. The effective date of mergers will be decided by the respective board of directors."
Sitharaman also talked about GDP data which was around five percent in the last quarter and said that the government was aware of the economic challenges and the government officials were in talks with representatives of different industries. "The GDP growth rate is at five percent in one quarter, we won’t compare it with earlier times. Dips and rise in GDP growth do happen, but we are not sitting without responding to boost it. Our full focus now is on how it will rise," she noted.
Responding to concerns about the rising gold prices and whether the government would take steps to control the rising prices, the finance minister said, “we don't have the yellow metal in our country, we depend on importing it. So its price depends on demand in the market, Dollar rate, crude rate etc. As a lot of people invest in gold, lot of factors determine gold price and the government can’t easily step in to control it."