With the numbers that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has, the Budget it presented on July 5 “should have been bolder”, Congress leader P Chidambaram said on Thursday.
Chidambaram has in the past week labelled finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s speech as “unusually opaque” for not disclosing the total revenue, the total expenditure, the fiscal deficit, the revenue deficit, the additional revenue mobilisation or the financial concessions.
He had also said it was rare that a Budget speech did not disclose the allocations to important programmes such as MGNREGA, mid-day meal scheme, health care, and to vulnerable sections.
“The economy is weak and the budget speech is insipid,” the former finance minister said in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday in his 30-minute speech during the debate on the Union Budget 2019 that drew from politics and economy.
Chidambaram also questioned the government’s claims, the figures quoted in budget and even the claim of transforming the Indian economy into a $5 trillion economy.
A nominal growth would transform the current economy over the next five years to a $5 trillion economy, Chidambaram said. The economy, he said, “will be ambling around at 6.5%. It is not good news for those at the bottom of the pyramid.”
The government, however, has predicted an 8% growth in the next fiscal.
Questioning the lack of big reforms in the Budget, the former finance minister said the government’s understanding and view of “macro-economic situation” was missing from the finance minister’s speech.
“What has been allocated for defence, women, minorities isn’t clear by reading the budget speech,” Chidambaram said and added, “show me one structural reform in the budget.”
The senior Congress leader referred to the 1990-1991 budget of Manmohan Singh when India changed track from being a controlled economy to a more open economy.
”Dr Singh worked with 140 members of Parliament. We wish we would have your numbers when presenting a Budget,” he said.
Chidambaram also said that the government’s predictions about revenue collection were flawed. Pointing to the shortfall in revenue collection in the last fiscal, he said the current estimates of the collection will not be met as well.
The Congress has already targeted finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s first budget and called it “utterly lacklustre, nondescript, uninspiring and directionless.”
Jul 11, 2019 16:55 IST