Monday, 30th October 2017

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Opposition airs misgivings about Nirmala’s announcements

Dubai clone symptom of ‘flippancy’

By Sanjay K. Jha in New Delhi
  • Published 16.09.19, 1:56 AM
  • Updated 16.09.19, 1:56 AM
  • 3 mins read
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Sharma added: “Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman (in picture) yesterday announced Dubai-like shopping festivals to bolster exports. This is the most frivolous statement coming from a finance minister. There is no money —both demand and consumption have crashed. Telegraph file picture

The government’s response to the economic crisis has not inspired confidence among Opposition leaders, who suspect a lack of competence may be one of the factors hampering revival measures.

“What worries us more than the crisis is the lack of seriousness demonstrated by the Narendra Modi government,” former commerce minister Anand Sharma told The Telegraph on Sunday.

“Ministers can’t be flippant about a grave national crisis. They are wasting their energies either in denying the crisis — which we had warned against over the past two years, after the demonetisation — or making non-serious statements. That the government is clueless is not an ordinary problem.”

Sharma added: “Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman yesterday announced Dubai-like shopping festivals to bolster exports. This is the most frivolous statement coming from a finance minister. There is no money —both demand and consumption have crashed.

“Industrial units, particularly in the MSME sector, are closing down, massive retrenchments are being reported — and the government’s prescription is shopping festivals! This, after the stupid Ola-Uber theory, should worry the country.”

Sitharaman had on Saturday unveiled a plan to hold annual mega-shopping festivals from next year on specific themes such as gems and jewellery, yoga, tourism, and textiles and leather across four centres in the country. This was part of an announcement about several measures to deal with the economic slowdown that the Congress later termed inadequate and ill-conceived.

Sitharaman had a few days earlier blamed the slump in auto sales on millennials’ presumed preference for Ola and Uber.

Former finance minister and ex-BJP leader Yashwant Sinha too dismissed the idea of shopping festivals.

“The economies of the UAE (United Arab Emirates) and India are different. India’s economy will progress only when farmers in areas like Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh progress,” he said.

“We should have grown at a rate of at least eight per cent. But in the first quarter of the financial year, GDP growth has come down to five per cent. The missing three per cent means a loss of Rs 6 lakh crore in just one quarter.”

Sinha was speaking at an event in Indore, where he also took a dig at Sitharaman’s Ola-Uber theory.

“People in the government are making weird statements. These statements will not lead to betterment of the economy but they will definitely affect the government’s image,” he said.

“If companies like Ola and Uber caused a drop in passenger vehicle sales, why is there a slowdown in the sales of two-wheelers and trucks? Bihar’s finance minister (Sushil Modi) said there is a recession because of Sawan-Bhado. A Union minister (Piyush Goyal) is talking about Einstein’s law of gravity!”

Sushil Modi had played the crisis down by saying the economy slows down every year during “Sawan-Bhado” — the months of Shravan and Bhadra, that is, between mid-July and mid-September.

Goyal recently said one should not look at the economy through the prism of numbers because “maths never helped Einstein discover gravity”.

The comment drew ridicule because it was Isaac Newton and not Albert Einstein who first proposed the theory of gravitation.

On Sunday, the CPM politburo said: “Instead of announcing a big increase in public investment to build our much-needed infrastructure, generate employment and thereby boost domestic demand, the finance minister has once again announced measures that in the first place have caused this economic slowdown, bordering on recession. The emphasis on targeting private investment in the realty sector and the effort to boost exports cannot succeed.”

“Global trade volumes are shrinking and houses are not being purchased because of sheer lack of purchasing power among the people. The Rs 70,000 crore worth of packages announced yesterday, instead, should have been put to use in increasing public investment and paying the arrears of the MNREGA, which would have boosted the purchasing power in rural India.”

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra confronted another minister for claiming that there was no job crisis and that there were not enough skilled people to take up jobs.

“Dear minister, your government has been in office for more than five years. You failed to generate jobs,” she tweeted.

“The existing jobs are being snatched because of the economic slowdown that the government brought in. The youth are waiting for some good measures on the government’s part. You want to wriggle out by heaping insult on north Indians. This is not acceptable.”

Labour and employment minister Santosh Gangwar had at a press conference in Bareilly on Saturday said “there is no dearth of job opportunities in the country”.

Those seeking to recruit employees in north India “often complain that they are unable to find the required quality in the candidates”, he added.

Realtors unhappy

India’s apex realtors group said it was disappointed at the measures the government had announced to support the sector as it had failed to address key demands such as a tax rebate and lower interests for home buyers and developers, PTI reported.

Credai national chairperson Jaxay Shah said the fund created for completing stalled real estate projects would have a limited impact as it excludes projects that face insolvency proceedings or become non-performing assets.

“Last month, we had met the finance minister and made several demands to improve liquidity and boost demand in the real-estate sector. Unfortunately, our demands have not been met,” Shah said.