Washington: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has reiterated that the inflation rate, which is hovering over 7 per cent in India, is “at a manageable level” compared to where some other countries are at present. But anticipating critics, she added that the government is working to bring it down under 6 per cent and would like to bring it down under 6 per cent and “ideally” to 4 per cent.
Sitharaman also noted with some satisfaction that the fundamentals of the Indian economy were in a good position at this time — “I’m not asking for celebration, but it is true that we are holding together”.
Addressing a news conference on Friday at the end of her visit to the annual meetings of the World Bank Group, which were accompanied by 24 bilateral meetings, the finance minister also gave a broad overview of India’s priorities for its upcoming year-long rotational presidency of the G-20 group of countries — essentially, focusing on bilateral development banks, climate finance and cryptocurrency.
Sitharaman first spoke of the inflation being at a “manageable level” earlier this month. She spoke more expansively at the news briefing. Expressing satisfaction with the fundamentals of the economy — “we are in a comfortable position”, she said, “that is why I keep repeating saying inflation is also at a manageable level.”
Inflation touched 7.4 per cent in September, which is outside the RBI tolerable range with 6 as the maximum. “I love to bring it down further below 6 and we are making efforts for it,” she said and pointed to the situation in other countries, especially Turkey, where the annual inflation rate stood at 80 per cent in August.
“Countries are being very severely impacted through external factors,” Sitharaman said, pointing possibly to rising energy prices that have fuelled inflation around the world. “We are also being impacted. But because of the various measures, we have been taking every time, timely each time. we’re able to bring it to this level, at least hold it. Ideally, at this time bring it four,” she said.
The finance minister also addressed the challenges India expects to face during its G-20 and pointed to the failure of the group to come out with a joint communique at the end of its finance ministers here during the World Bank meetings — they “couldn’t come up with a communique; all of them have ended up coming up with some stair chair statement.” She added that 2022 was a contentious year for the group and that India will be taking on those and other challenges working closely with the members.
The minister also defended the Enforcement Directorate and the Income Tax departments’ action against civil rights bodies and activities. “I don’t want to comment on individual cases or the approach but certainly, there are instances which are so standing out and if the agency goes there, it is with some prima facie evidence in its hand and some of them have even been covered by the media yourselves — the quantum of money stored, precious jewellery, gold seized. So they have to act,” she said in response to a question.