By Linus Garg
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said that the auto industry is suffering low sales as millennials prefer to ride on Uber and Ola instead of owning cars to avoid the hassle of driving and looking for parking slots. This is once again a classic example of a government not willing to acknowledge a problem and looking for excuses to explain the slowdown in the economy.
Sitharaman should know that preference for riding on Uber and Ola can be one of the minor reasons but can never be one of the main reasons for the precarious position the auto industry finds itself in. On the other hand, car sales are being driven by Ola and Uber because as demand rises for such rides, people are investing in cars to run them on the app-based platforms.
Further, it is not only the sales of cars that have plummeted. Demand has fallen across the board for all kinds of vehicles, including two-wheelers and commercial vehicles. App-based platforms cannot be held responsible for that. It is lack of manufacturing activity and falling profitability for businessmen and lack of jobs and no rise in salaries for the salaried-class that is preventing them from investing in acquiring new assets.
The finance minister must be aware that auto sales have been going down for 10 straight months now. She must also be aware that GDP growth rate is going down, companies are reporting lower sales in their quarterly results, manufacturing has contracted for the last few months and credit off-take has slowed down to a trickle. All this taken together shows that the economy is in recession.
Hence, instead of looking for excuses or responding in knee-jerk fashion, the finance minister should apply her mind and think of structural reforms. She should find the money to invest in infrastructure to perk up demand. The government must not sleep on the matter and instead must tackle it on a war footing.