NEW DELHI: The central government on Wednesday expressed confidence that a growth rate of 7-8 per cent would be achieved before the general elections of 2019.
Speaking at a ‘Ministerial Conclave – The Growth Debate’, organised by Zee Business, Union Minister for Roads, Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari said the country is in a transit period after the implementation of two of the government’s biggest economic reforms, referring to demonetisation and the rollout of the Goods and Services Tax.
“There are some difficulties but it is a temporary phase. (Over the) next six months, things will change and will be back on track,” he said.
“There will be ups and downs, but we have shown that our government can work. We need time,” he added.
In September, Prime Minister Narendra Modi constituted a five-member Economic Advisory Council (EAC) headed by Niti Aayog member Bibek Debroy.
Since 2016, GDP growth has fallen for six consecutive quarters, dipping to a three-year low of 5.7 per cent in the April-June quarter of FY2018, with India losing the fastest growing large economy tag to China for the second straight quarter.
However, the government has recently taken many steps, including a reduction in basic excise duty rate on petrol and diesel (both branded and unbranded) by Rs 2 per litre to cushion the impact of rising international prices of crude.
Some sectors are facing difficulties after implementation of GST but these are temporary glitches and the government is working to look into concerns of all persons, Gadkari said.
On agriculture, which employs a majority of the population, the minister expressed confidence that farm growth would hit 18 per cent nationwide by 2019, pointing to the example of Madhya Pradesh, which has had agri growth of 23 per cent. However, he conceded that the manufacturing sector needs a bit of improvement. In India, he noted, the cost of logistics is around 16-18 per cent, while it is 12 per cent in European countries and only 8 per cent in China.
“We are working towards reducing cost via waterways,” he added. “By 2019, my sector (roads, tarnsport) will contribute 2-3 per cent to the country’s GDP, that is our target.”
Referring to senior party leader Yashwant Sinha’s views on the economy, Gadkari said Sinha was a senior leader and has every right to speak and point out mistakes but that he should have done it in a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Party President Amit Shah, or any other senior minister.
“Nobody is perfect and nobody can claim to be perfect, we respect him and we could have seriously looked at his views,” Gadkari said.
Gadkari also said that the Modi government would be back in 2019 as people have realised that only he can change the destiny of the country. Also, there is no other option, he said, referring to Rahul Gandhi and the Congress.
“People will support the leadership of Modi,” he said.