The government was keeping a “keen eye” on merchandise import trends to assess if there “was flooding” of any particular goods, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Wednesday, observing that even a few months of import surges could hurt the economy for “a whole year”.
Stressing that the government’s Atma Nirbhar Bharat approach was not inward-looking and that imports of critical inputs for Indian industry would not be barred, the Minister said the government would continue to reduce duties wherever it was possible to do so without hurting domestic players.
“At the same time, [government will] keep a very close watch on flooding or surge in any kind of imported goods. The surge sometimes hurt us, even if the surge was only for three months, it can hurt us for a whole year,” she noted at an Assocham interaction. Ms. Sitharaman also expressed concern about the impending challenge of a slowing global economy for the country’s exporters.
“Indian exporters will have to be far more receptive of what is happening there [in global markets] or even foresee how that will pan out for them and keep constantly engaging with the government. Otherwise, at a time when our exporters are really readying themselves to be on their toes, such challenges can really demotivate them, if I can use a softer word,” she said.
Earlier, speaking at the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ms. Sitharaman said that enabling provisions for including petroleum products and natural gas in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime were in place, but their actual inclusion into the GST net would require a consensus with States and an agreement on what the tax rate should be. She emphasised this was not a decision to be taken by the Centre alone, and would require the entire GST Council’s backing.