MUMBAI: Nitin Gadkari, a top minister of the Narendra Modi Cabinet, on Friday insisted government finances were not at all in bad shape.
Days after a government decision to lower its open market borrowing limit fired up the stock market, Gadkari told an elite gathering of Dalal Street honchos and industry captains here that the pressure on government finances was much less than what the market thinks.
Direct tax collections are up 18 per cent, while government borrowing has been lowered by Rs 30,000 crore, he pointed out.
Gadkari said demonetisation and GST have been two major economic reforms of the NDA government and the economy is still going through the transitory period of GST. The economy should start firing on all cylinders once the GST system settles, he said. The government rolled out the goods and services tax (GST) from July 1, 2017.
"Our path is clear for 7 per cent growth," Gadkari said.
Hinting at a possible shift in the Union Budget focus towards the hinterland, the Union Road Transport and Highways Minister said he expects the upcoming Budget to be rural-focussed.
"I am expecting the Finance Minister to give importance to agriculture and rural sectors in Budget," he told the ETMarkets Pre-Budget meet in Mumbai.
"We need a push for private investment in the rural sector and have to pay more attention to agriculture and rural sectors," Gadkari said,
The roads and highway minister claimed the country's road sector was growing much faster under the Modi government.
"We are building roads at the rate of 28 km a day. This will go up to 40 km a day by next March. Our government has increased the total length of national highways from 96,000 km to 2 lakh km. By next year, 80 per cent of India's road traffic will be on national highways" he claimed.
He said Sagarmala project was a huge innovation, and it would be implemented at a cost of Rs 16 lakh crore. Works worth Rs 2.4 lakh crore have already started.
Key road projects in Northeast, UP and Bihar are already under implementation. "New road building projects in Northeast would cost Rs 1 lakh crore," the Union Minister said.
In the port sector, the government is expecting Rs 7,000 crore profit this year, Gadkari said.
The Union Minister announced a plan to start cruise service from Mumbai to Goa next year. He said there was a lot of opportunity for sea plane services from the Mumbai coast.
He said the Modi Government was looking to start five big projects for river connectivity soon.