Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday met leading economists to discuss key issues including employment, agriculture, education, and health in the run-up to the Budget.Modi interacted over 40 economists and other experts in five distinct groups on the themes of the macro-economy and employment, agriculture and water resources, exports, education, and health. The interaction was organised by NITI Aayog on the theme "Economic Policy - The Road Ahead".Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present the first Budget of Modi 2.0 on July 5.In his intervention, the Prime Minister thanked various participants for their suggestions and observations on various aspects of the economy, a statement from the PMO said. The meeting was also attended by Union Ministers Piyush Goyal and Rao Inderjeet Singh. NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar, and senior officers from the government and NITI Aayog were also present.Sources said the meeting was held to discuss breakthrough ideas in employment, agriculture and water resources, export, education, and health.
The meeting assumes significance as India is facing economic slowdown reflected in the dip in industrial and manufacturing output numbers, and dipping automobiles sales. The agricultural crisis and unemployment are the other challenges that the government is widely expected to confront through policy initiatives in this budget.India Inc has been seeking stimulus in various relief measures from the government in the Budget to tackle the slowdown. The bigger worry for the government is domestic consumption is not growing fast enough to offset a weakening global economic environment.According to industry body Ficci this is a matter of serious concern and if not addressed urgently, the repercussions would be long-term.The economy is in a deceleration mode with GDP growth clocking 5.8 per cent in Q4 2018-19 and 6.8 per cent for the year as a whole. This quarterly growth rate is the lowest in 18 quarters. Besides, during 2018-19, the quarterly growth rates have been consistently decelerating: 8 per cent in Q1, 7 per cent in Q2, and 6.6 per cent in Q3. It may also be noted that the slowdown is accompanied by a high unemployment rate across the labour force of 6.1 per cent - skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled.The growth rate in 2018-19 was also the five year low at 6.8 per cent.