Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma on Saturday expressed hope that India’s GDP would grow by 5.5 percent during the current fiscal and export performance will be better despite global slow-down.
“Regardless of the GDP numbers released yesterday, I am confident that India’s GDP growth will not be less than 5.5 per cent this year,” he said,” while addressing the leading exporters here after inaugurating the brand new office of the Federation of Indian Export Organization (FIEO) in Andheri, Mumbai.
Sharma admitted that the country’s economy is facing strong headwinds, but asserted that the fundamentals of the Indian economy remain strong.
He said that higher growth is not an option, but an imperative for India.
Sharma added that every percentage drop in GDP threatens three million jobs and India can not simply afford to grow at a slower rate.
“An atmosphere of gloom is being created unnecessarily through speculative hammering and we need to overcome this despondency and negativity,” he said.
The Commerce Minister based his optimism on the export performance and said despite the world-wide recessionary trends, Indian exports managed to touch US $ 303 billion last fiscal, almost double from the US $ 167 billion 4 years ago.
He said the exports have done well in the first four months of this fiscal and forward bookings of exporters are also encouraging. FIEO members expressed confidence of touching $ 325 billion mark.
Sharma said the government has taken several measures to push merchandize exports to earn foreign exchange. He said special thrust has been laid on bringing down transaction cost to boost trade efficiency. He observed that the US $ 1.2 trillion investment planned in infrastructure sector will go a long way in boosting export performance of Indian companies.
Sharma, however, felt that the turn around time in Indian ports was still longer, which needs to be brought down near international standards.
Advocating the need to bring down cost of container exports, he observed that “CONCOR (Container Corporation of India) alone will be not be able to meet India’s container needs. We need to have competition”.
He said special emphasis is being laid on trade facilitation, which is also an important issue at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Sharma defended the government and RBI measures to curb gold imports to address the current account deficit.
“We import oil. Since it is an energy requirement, we have little scope to reduce imports. So we need to look at other options” said Sharma.
“Even if India considers to monetize a part of its declared gold reserve, it can go a long way in powering the economy,” he added.
The Commerce Minister clarified that monetizing gold was one of the options, and he never advocated auctioning or mortgaging gold.
Earlier, speaking at the CHEMEXCIL Export Awards function on Friday evening, as part of his two day Mumbai visit, Sharma had said that India would remain one among the top three destinations for foreign investment in spite of the economic downturn.
He rejected the argument that the country was facing a pre-1991-like situation, saying ‘the foreign exchange reserves are satisfactory, foreign debt is at a manageable level and the debt to GDP ratio has been constantly coming down’.
He asserted that India’s growth story can not be written off and there is no reason to panic. (ANI)