FM Nirmala Sitharaman ducks query on job losses and GDP growth rate

New Delhi: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday avoided a direct answer to a query whether the economy is currently going through a "slowdown".

At a press conference, when a reporter asked if the government considers job losses and the falling GDP growth rate as signs of economic slowdown, Sitharaman brushed the question aside.

She merely said: "The government has been in consultation with a lot of sectors. In some sectors the inventory is piling up. We have heard them and announcements were made on August 23. Last Friday also we made some announcements (merger of banks)."

She was also asked about former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement, released on Sunday morning, wherein he said: India cannot afford to continue down this path.

Therefore, I urge the government to put aside vendetta politics and reach out to all sane voices and thinking minds to steer our economy out of this man-made crisis.

Nirmala again refused to be drawn into making a comment on the slowdown. Instead, with intended sarcasm, she merely said: "Is Dr Manmohan Singh saying that instead of indulging in political vendetta they should consult sane voices? Has he said that? All right, thank you, I will take his statement on it. That is my answer."

The last quarter's GDP growth rate of 5% signals that we are in the midst of a prolonged slowdown. India has the potential to grow at a much faster rate but all-round mismanagement by the Modi government has resulted in this slow down," Manmohan Singh had said in a video released by ther Congress party on Sunday morning.

Concerns of a downswing have racked up again as a severe slowdown in manufacturing activity has pulled GDP growth rate in first quarter (Q1) down to 5 per cent, marking the fourth successive quarter of decline in growth on the trot. From 8 per cent during Q1 of 2018-19 to 5 per cent in this quarter, the GDP has fallen by three per cent in barely a year.

However, in all fairness, the Finance Minister tried to allay misgivings about possible job losses following the recent mega merger of banks, saying it would not lead to any.

‘‘Absolutely, ill informed. I want to assure every union in every one of these banks to please recall what I have said last Friday. When we spoke about amalgamation of banks I have very clearly underlined the fact that there shall not be one employee removed. Not at all", she told reporters.

Asked what she would say to people who had lost their jobs or were likely to lose theirs, Sitharaman said, "I can only say we are responding to the industry requirements. Across the board there is no one particular answer that I can give, saying this is the magic wand.

Sectorally, what they want, we are responding," she said. Regarding the expected timeline for relief in the economy, the Finance Minister said the measures announced in the July budget were showing results on ground.

India cannot afford to continue down this path. Therefore, I urge the government to put aside vendetta politics and reach out to all sane voices and thinking minds to steer our economy out of this man-made crisis

— Manmohan Singh

Is Dr Manmohan Singh saying that instead of indulging in political vendetta they should consult sane voices? Has he said that? All right, thank you, I will take his statement on it. That is my answer

— Nirmala Sitharaman

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