FM says talks on helping economy continue, won't comment on timeline

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, under pressure to announce measures to revive the slowing economy, said on Friday that officials of her ministry were in discussions with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), and the government would reveal the remedial steps once finalised. 

“We met the Prime Minister on Thursday and we shall meet again. It is not the right time to talk about any road map or stimulus package because discussions are still on between the (finance) ministry and the PMO. When we are ready to reveal anything, we will do so,” she told the media here.

Elaborating on her ministry’s meeting with five groups, including banks, industries, SMEs, the financial and automobile sectors, Sitharaman said their issues had been heard by the government. “We are now analysing what steps need to be taken. Soon, we will respond,” she said.

On the issue of the gems and jewellery sector seeking relief in gold imports, Sitharaman said given the amount of foreign exchange spent on the commodity, one needed to look at the need to subsidise it further. 

“Gold, like crude oil import and certain electronics, is also not a product which we have in this country. Every gold that we buy is imported. For something that is not available in this country and the quantum of foreign exchange we pay for it, do we need to look at what we want to pay and do I subsidise such a thing?” the finance minister said.

Sitharaman also said black money was “coming back” and that properties were “being confiscated and making it go in the market”.

The finance minister was in Ahmedabad on Friday for a joint session with officials of the income tax department, central goods and services tax (CGST) and customs department of Gujarat. 

With the first being held in Ahmedabad, the minister is set to hold a series of such meetings in tier-II cities like Mysore, Guwahati, Pune and Kanpur, along with metros, among others. Sitharaman will interact with tax officials, tax practitioners and taxpayers.

With similar joint sessions to be held in other cities, the finance minister intends to reiterate Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s views on respecting and facilitating wealth creators.

“As the Prime Minister says, we should respect and facilitate wealth creators. Officials should also have the facility of faceless information gathering and discussions with tax assessees through technology so that assesses do not have to be summoned in person. Through these sessions, we also want to reach out to taxpayers to inform them about this technology and address issues that they are facing with relevant officials,” she said.

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