NEW DELHI: With the economy in a tailspin and the Budget barely a month away, PM Narendra Modi on Thursday sat down with top economists and business leaders to pick their brains on how to revive growth, which is projected to drag at an 11-year low pace in FY20. “We must all work together and start to think like a nation,” an official release quoted the Prime Minister as saying at the meeting, which was attended by private equity players, venture capitalists, business leaders, key officials and members of the Niti Aayog, apart from economists.
Home Minister Amit Shah, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal were also present in the meeting. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was conspicuous by her absence in the Thursday meeting held at the Niti Aayog. Intriguingly, she was also not part of a series of other pre-Budget meetings the PM has held with business leaders in the past few days. On Thursday, Sitharaman was busy meeting BJP workers to hear their Budget suggestions.
Her absence at the meeting chaired by the PM and the presence of Piyush Goyal, who has previously acted as finance minster during late Arun Jaitley’s indisposition, triggered a flurry of tweets. “Where is the finance minister or has the duo (PM and Home Minister) forgotten they have one?” asked Congress MP Shashi Tharoor. Sitharaman’s office was quick to join in, tweeting, “Sir, the minister has already met industrialists and economists during the pre-Budget consultations.”
‘Jobs, exports, bank credit were part of discussions’
Among the CEOs present in the meeting were Bandhan Bank chief Chandra Shekhar Ghosh, Dabur India’s Móhit Malhotra, CRISIL CEO Ashu Suyash, among others. Economists included Shankar Acharya, Chief Economic Advisor during Manmohan Singh’s tenure as PM, Ila Patnaik of National Institute of Public Finance & Policy, and Bibek Debroy, chairman of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister.
Sources said job creation, exports, bank credit were figured in the discussions and Modi reportedly said he would act on suggestions that can be implemented quickly. According to officials present in the meeting, the talks ranged from “bold reforms” to “people-centric Budget”. Industry leaders have been advising in previous meetings that the government relax fiscal-deficit target to spend its way out of the trouble. Officials said industrialists and bankers made suggestions to reverse the consumption slowdown and improve India’s ease of doing business rankings.
“The thrust of the deliberations was on short- and long-term measures to revive the country’s economy and boost employment with focus on export, tourism and agriculture. Ideas for liquidity expansion through credit and strengthening public sector banking institutions were also discussed,” said an official.
During her meeting with party workers at the BJP headquarters, Sitharaman was presented with six sectoral reports put together in a pre-Budget consultative exercise with over 200 organisations in the past two weeks.