A day after the interim Budget, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman spoke with Network18 managing director Rahul Joshi in an exclusive interview about the fiscal exercise, calling it “secularism in action”. According to her, the robustness of the economy has not gone down. She hit out at the UPA, talking about corruption under its regime. On the upcoming elections, the FM said that people were seeing the effort Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been putting in.
Here are some of the big quotes from the interview.
On Budget: We treated it like a true interim budget.
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This is secularism in action. We have not shown any difference between members of any community, religion etc. The project reaches the ground for everybody who deserves to get it.
On growth: The chief economic advisor has also elaborated how 7 per cent is not difficult to achieve. Globally, various organisations like the IMF have also enhanced their own assessment, so upgrading our growth estimates is not just singularly our business. People are seeing that fundamentally a lot of activities are happening. The robustness of the economy has not slacked, it has maintained its buoyancy.
On one hand, we will manage inflation, on the other had keep the robustness, so it is sustained growth. We are looking at both growth-driving elements and inclusivity-driving elements so that nobody is left out of this growth process.
On rating agencies: I would think they do their job, but periodically it’s our business also to bring it to their notice that the economy, particularly emerging market economies like India despite the odds, we are doing a lot of systemic reforms which are bearing the results now. Rating agencies should look at comprehensively not at one aspect.
On disinvestment: If you look at the public sector listing, you see the vibrancy. Their share values have gone up and dividends are better than earlier. Disinvestment is one thing but bringing value to them and making sure that the markets look at them.
On employment: We are only focusing on indicators pertaining to the formal economy. College recruitments, IIM campuses are important. But jobs getting created in lower and middle order are not getting counted. Why would new companies be registered in bigger numbers if employment is not being offered?
A fairer, more open, exhaustive picture of India’s employment in the formal and informal needs a wider base and we need to bring in such data.
On global slowdown: Because of the way in which AI is coming, the job and the recruitment for new recruits is changing. So people with old skill sets are expected to have additional skill sets for entering certain areas which did not exist.
On inflation: We are confident that we’ll be able to manage inflation. Managing Inflation is an ongoing job, it is not with a deadline, it has to keep happening.
On UPA: We lost 10 glorious years (under UPA). And to restore it [the economy] to that position back and then pull it up to now get closer to the world’s third-largest economy is a herculean task”
I am grateful we had a Prime Minister like Modi ji, who single-mindedly said I will restore this economy. We’ve had 10 years and prior to that you saw 10 years of policy paralysis, corruption, and the nation losing its endowments and so on.
On Paytm and fintech industry: I would not comment on a particular company. Fintech is an area where all of us are very enthusiastic. India has contributed a lot in this sector and it is globally recognised. Today when people are looking at fintech solutions, they look at India. This is an area we would like to work with.
On Tamil Nadu and DMK’s anti-Hindu sentiment: The attack on Hindus in Tamil Nadu has been felt for a long time. I speak about Tamil Nadu with lived experiences.
My grief is that a national party like the Congress has been decimated in the state. And they cannot win even a couple of seats if they are not in alliance with one of these parties. Congress also joins the anti-Hindu voice and does not condemn the anti-Hindu voice of the DMK. That is the spirit with which Congress is also aligning, which is utterly shocking.
On BJP as a Hindi party: Is there any one party in India which has worked for the betterment of tribals, and Scheduled Castes in India? They have called BJP (Brahim-Baniya Party), they call us the Hindi party. I can challenge that no other party has worked for the betterment of tribals, Dalits, Scheduled Castes, ST.
On the 2024 elections: I think people will see the truth, commitment and dedication with which the PM is working. They are seeing how he puts the people of India before anything else.
On investigative agencies: These are professional agencies, they take a huge time to make their cases and everything is monitored by the court.
The era is changing. People don’t like to have corrupt leaders. So when the ED knocks on their doors, common people are seeing it.