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Nirmala Sitharaman: Favourable investment environment far better served under Modi govt: Nirmala Sitharaman

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AgenciesThe point that I want to make here is creating a favourable ambience for investment to come here and invest in India is far better served under Modi than all the bright economists who ran the economy earlier, said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to Times Now’s Navika Kumar. Edited excerpts:

I want to ask you about the last quarter of 2021 which showed a bit of positivity in the growth rates and the manufacturing sector. The economy is one area where the Modi Sarkar has had a bad run. Many people pick up the issue of DeMo which created a man-made slowdown and a dip in the growth rates, and since then the slowdown and two years of the pandemic. Today if we are seeing some green shoots, do you think it is enough? Is it going to be sustainable?

Well, I would not want to ask you why are you stopping at beginning from there. You should have talked about the era of UPA-2 when we inherited an economy which was a fragile five. India was one among the fragile five and it took Prime Minister Modi’s efforts between ‘14 to ‘18 to revive the economy. Why would you not want to talk about it and why would you not ask those people who lectured to us saying “oh! Economy is your weakness.” I want to ask you, you have great guys dealing with economy earlier in UPA, what was the highest point of our inflation at that time. It reached even 12.4%, if I am right and the food inflation was most of the time in double digits.

Whereas Atal Bihari Vajpayee had given an economy where inflation was not even beyond 4.8%, maybe 3.8 at the time when the UPA came in. Then where did it take us. Great guys handling the economy at that time in UPA-2, what was the level of corruption which you saw and the entire government’s economy’s performance was all completely hurt by bad policy. You were dealing with the economy as though it was somebody’s private property and giving away national assets to your friends and relatives. Is that what you think is the expertise to handle the economy?

Having brought an economy which was robust under Atal Bihari Vajpayee to a level of fragile five, post which Prime Minister Modi and my very respected predecessor Arun Jaitley struggled to get the economy back on rails. We very quickly became the fastest growing economies of the world. Begin from that. So, for all those who are very quick in saying “oh! No, BJP’s handling of the economy…” I am sorry please sit and do your homework first, then come to the situation in 2019 when the government came back.

Globally there was a slowdown. In fact, interest rates in various countries abroad, inclusive of the United States and developed economies in the European Union, were all suffering low interest rate. In fact, the expression low for long: It would never rise, the interest rates were at the bottom. Investors were all looking for better opportunities and they found India as one of those very good destinations to come and invest. That continues till today. No wonder your FDI, your foreign exchange reserves are all at their highest ever. That is also a strength of this economy.

Are you sure? There are tech majors re-thinking their strategy of making India a destination because every other day we have run ins with the Google, the Twitter, the Whatsapps of the world. We have litigation that is going on in courts. We are virtually in a confrontation mode with all of these companies. Is this helping India becoming an FDI destination, especially at a time last year when China was so unpopular?
Of course, it is there. Look at the success of the PLI schemes, look at the number of companies which have come to India and want to invest. It is not just that they want to, they have already started showing their ground-level activities. If you were to talk about “oh! Look at the way in which many of the companies are in the courts fighting for their cause.” Excuse me.

One of the top most example of that is a result of the so-called retrospective amendment which was done by the very imminent economist who run that UPA-2 and as a result today we are fighting the case in the courts for an amendment which was done in the parliament and government being a continuum. I am expected to keep up to fight for the sovereign right of India to tax, but where has that led us. You are fighting on a cause where you showed that Indian government is probably vengeful. You wanted to go back and lay retrospective tax on companies and…

But you are still carrying that on.
No, and today therefore having gone into a litigation situation for me to rapidly go and change the law, although when I am in government, I have to remember that if there are questions on the sovereign right of India to tax, I will have to stand up. That does not mean the retrospective amendment was right.

There is a nuance which I want you understand. The point that I want to make here is creating a favourable ambience for investment to come here and invest in India is far better served under Modi than all the bright economists who ran the economy earlier. That is why FDI even today in India is at its highest. Last year even with corona, the economy received the highest number of FDIs. So that is the picture you need to take on board.


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