Days after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected a reduced growth rate for India, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said India remains among the fastest growing economies of the world and efforts are being made to make it grow faster. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Sitharaman said the country's economy is "still growing as the fastest". The finance minister is in Washington to attend the annual meeting of the IMF and the World Bank.
Sitharaman said she is "certainly not risking a comparison" with China, even though the two countries growth rates have been projected at 6.1 per cent in the latest IMF report.
"The IMF (in its latest projections) reduces the growth (rate) for all the global economies. It reduces the growth for India too. But even otherwise, even with that India is still growing as the fastest growing economy," she said.
As against India's real growth rate of 6.8 per cent in 2018, the IMF in its latest World Economic Outlook released on Tuesday projected the country's growth rate at 6.1 per cent for 2019 and noted that the Indian economy is expected to pick up at 7 per cent in 2020.
With all that being said, "the point cannot be missed” that India is still "growing the fastest" in the given global scenario, Sitharaman observed.
"I wish it can be more. I wish it can grow faster. I'll make every effort to make it grow faster. But the fact remains that it is still growing faster.
"It's one of the fastest growing economies too. But that's not going to make me complacent," she said.
Observing that several things about the economy are sentiment-driven, the Union finance minister said so obviously the narrative is "it's not growing as much as it used to grow earlier".
"It's not eight. It's not seven. It's come down to six and so on. Yes, all these are very important. But I don't want to underestimate the potential that India is showing even in this adverse circumstance," Sitharaman said.
To a question, Sitharaman said at this stage she is "not looking at how long", but expecting if she is looking at green shoots.
She said at this stage, it is "my duty to hear every sector and respond as much as they would want us to respond from the government side".
"So, my business is now just to go on listening and making sure that the grievances or their demands are addressed,” Sitharaman said.
"I'm not spending any time at this stage to analyze," she said.
When asked if the slowdown of the Indian economy is cyclical or structural, Sitharaman said it may be both, may not be both, maybe partly one or maybe partly the other.
"I'm not getting into that at this stage. I don't have the luxury of sitting and looking at which way it is going," she said.
"On the contrary, I have all the time to know what people want me to do and (I) respond to them accordingly," Sitharaman said.
Asked if the government is still on track to maintain the fiscal deficit target to 3.3 per cent of the GDP, she said: "Fiscal deficit, I am not reviewing it now."
"At this stage, do not want to allow that to worry me. I'm more keen on getting to addressing the issues which industry wants me to address," Sitharaman said.
The Union finance minister said "you will get to know if there is any" when asked whether there is a move to lower personal income tax.