Concerned about slowdown in the economy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will interact with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and other top officials tomorrow to take stock of the situation and discuss remedial measures to bolster growth. Modi will threadbare analyse the economic situation with Jaitley and secretaries of the finance ministry and explore options to stimulate the economy, official sources said. The meeting comes days after government data showed GDP growth in the first quarter of the current fiscal slumping to a three-year low of 5.7 per cent, from 7.9 per cent in April- June of 2016 and 6.1 per cent of January-March.
GDP growth has declined steadily for six straight quarters and the Economic Survey-II predicts that the economy may not be able to achieve the targeted growth rate of 7.5 per cent owing to deflationary pressures. Exports are facing strong headwinds and the industrial growth is the lowest in five years. The current account deficit (CAD) in the April-June quarter has risen to 2.4 per cent of GDP, or $14.3 billion, mainly on account of increased trade gap.
CAD, the difference between inflow and outflow of foreign exchange, was 0.1 per cent ($0.4 billion) in the June quarter of last fiscal.
The figure compares with 0.6 per cent ($3.4 billion) for January-March 2017. The teething troubles with the rollout of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), after-effects of demonetisation and the fiscal space available is likely to figure during the meeting. Till date, direct and indirect tax collections as well as projections for the year may be presented to the prime minister. Disinvestment proceeds may also be put before Modi to give a fuller picture of government finances.
Inflationary pressures, along with reasons for the lacklustre manufacturing growth of 1.2 per cent in July, may also come up for discussion, they said, adding that the meeting may also take stock of spread of monsoon and its impact on agricultural economy. Both wholesale and retail inflation rose in August. With demonetisation said to have dealt a blow to blackmoney, steps being taken to prevent its generation may also be discussed at the meeting.
Sources said the interaction may focus broadly on what ails the economy and the fiscal space available with the government. Steps to boost economic growth, create jobs and reviving private investment may be part of the discussion, they said. The government is concerned at the stuttering growth despite a benign macroeconomic environment with easy money flowing in, global growth reviving, government revenues looking solid, deep foreign exchange reserves, reasonable oil prices and a decent monsoon keeping food prices in check. Increasing government spending, particularly on infrastructure, combined with quickly fixing the problems with GST may feature in tomorrow’s deliberations.