Former Indian finance minister protests economic policies

NEW DELHI (AP) — A former Indian finance minister just released on bail in a bribery case joined a protest Thursday of the government’s economic policies, which are being blamed for India’s slowest economic growth in six years.

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Former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said the lower growth rate was pushing millions of people into poverty and he will raise the issue in Parliament. He joined his Congress party’s protest hours after his release on bail.

On Wednesday, India’s Supreme Court ordered Chidambaram released in the case involving alleged bribery and money laundering benefiting his son’s company when he was the finance minister in 2006. He denied the allegations and accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government of pursuing a political vendetta.

India’s economic growth was 4.5% in July-September, down from 7.4% in February this year, Chidambaram said on Thursday.

He also said that there was no demand in the market because people have less money and they were also not confident about their future.

India's central bank on Thursday lowered India's economic growth to 5% in 2019-2020 financial year as compared to its earlier projection of 6.1%. India's financial year runs from April to March.

Many economists believe the economy was weakened by the currency demonetization by Modi's government in 2016 and a hasty rollout of a goods and services tax.

The government recently announced a series of steps to check faltering consumer spending and corporate investment.

The government rolled back a surcharge on foreign portfolio investment and announced steps to lower interest rates on home and auto loans to boost the country’s faltering economy.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also announced that the government will withdraw a tax on investments by startups to help raise private investment and create jobs.

Sitharaman also lowered the base corporate tax rate to 22% from 30%.