Former Union Finance Minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Saturday (February 1) said there is nothing in the Union Budget 2020-21 that would assure one that growth will revive in the next fiscal. He also said the government’s claim of 6 to 6.5 per cent growth next year is “astonishing and even irresponsible”.
Addressing a press conference after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman tabled the Union Budget in the Parliament, Chidambaram said the Modi government is in complete denial that the economy faces a “grave macro-economic challenge” and it has given up on reviving the economy, accelerating growth or creating jobs.
He said the government “does not believe” in reforms and certainly not in structural reforms as the finance minister has outrightly rejected every reform idea in the Economic Survey. “Did the FM read the Economic Survey? Was the chief economic adviser privy to the content of the Budget speech? I think the answer to both questions is in the negative,” he said.
There were multiple themes, segments and programmes in the Budget speech, leaving the listener dazed and confused, he claimed. “It was a laundry list of old (that is current) programmes. I am pretty certain that even the most loyal BJP MP or supporter cannot latch on to any idea or statement in the Budget speech and take it to the people,” he said.
If the ongoing programmes have failed the people, how throwing more money into the ongoing programmes will change anything, he asked. “The government has given up on reviving the economy or accelerating the growth rate or promoting private investment or increasing efficiency or creating jobs or winning a greater share of world trade,” he said.
The Indian economy is demand-constrained and investment-starved, and the finance minister has not acknowledged these two challenges, he said. “You did not ask for such a budget and you did not deserve such a budget for voting the BJP to power. But you have to live with it until the government is forced to revisit it, as it did in 2019,” Chidambaram said.
Finance Minister Sitharaman announced cuts in personal income tax, extended tax benefits for affordable housing and gave relief to companies on payment of dividend in the Union Budget as the government looked to boost consumption to bring the economy out of the worst slowdown in 11 years.
(With inputs from agencies)