Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has been on an official visit to the United States of America from April 18. She attended a high-level panel discussion with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva on “Money at a Crossroad”.
Besides this, she also delivered an address at the Washington DC-based think tank Atlantic Council and has met the chiefs of the US Securities and Exchange Commission and Financial Stability Board so far on the sidelines of the IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings 2022.
During her visit, she will also engage in bilateral meetings with countries like Sri Lanka, Indonesia, South Africa and South Korea and will hold one-on-one meetings with CEOs working in sectors like semiconductors, energy and others. Sitharaman will also interact with students and faculty at the Stanford University and will depart for India on April 27.
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Here are the top highlights from Sitharaman’s US visit so far:
1. On inflation: Talking about inflation, the finance minister said that India crossed the upper limit of 6 per cent but “not so badly.” She further said that India’s focus was to push capex without losing sight of moral obligation towards the underprivileged.
2. On Indian economy: Sitharaman said during her speech at the Atlantic Council that India’s economic recovery from the impact of coronavirus pandemic has been “distinct and pronounced” and that the country will continue to be one of the fastest-growing economies in this decade.
3. On bad loans: She said, “Bad loans and provisioning were taxing. We have to keep infusing money into banks… We have amalgamated several of them… The Reserve Bank of India has also been very nimble about setting up ‘digital only’ NBFCs. Now, we are in the process of setting up digital banks as well, not one but 75 of them this year.”
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4. On India fulfilling Paris Climate Summit commitments: During her Atlantic Council address, Sitharaman said that India is one of the six countries that has fulfilled a large chunk of the Paris Climate Summit 2015 commitments and is committed to fulfilling renewable energy targets.
5. On India’s coal dependence: Sitharaman said, “So your dependence on coal will ideally be coming down and if we pegged the coming down to a certain period, now because of the transition gas becoming much more in price and availability becoming a bit difficult, the dependence on coal and the speed with which we wanted to get out of it will be challenged… so that’s what is the big problem before us.”
6. On crypto: Finance Minister Sitharaman said that the biggest risk of cryptocurrency could be money laundering and its use in terror financing. She added that that regulation using technology is the only answer and that it has to be “adept” and “has to be not behind the curve.”
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7. On crypto as a currency: Sitharaman said, “We haven’t said this is a currency. We haven’t said this has an intrinsic value. Certain operations are taxable for the sovereign.”
8. On crypto tax: With regard to taxing income from crypto transactions, the Finance Minister said it was a means to check the source and trail but not to declare it legal.
9. On India’s startup ecosystem: Sitharaman said during her discussion with the IMF boss that India has the largest startup ecosystem and fintech is the most preferred sector. She claimed that 1 in 4 startups belong to the fintech sector and that they are increasingly becoming unicorns.
10. Digital adoption rate in India: The Finance Minister said that the digital adoption rate in India stood at 85 per cent as of 2019 while it was near 64 per cent globally. She said that the COVID pandemic helped in testing and proving that it is simple to use and that common people can use it.
(With agency inputs)
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