The Rajya Sabha passed the Appropriation Bill and Finance Bill, 2007-08, on Friday but not before the Opposition led by BJP leader Arun Jaitley, mounted a scathing criticism of the budget, calling it a "national disappointment" and calling Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram a "high tax finance minister".
When his turn came to speak in the debate, Chidambaram too was at his sardonic best, dismissing the Opposition's critique and arguing that UPA government's economic management has been "far better" and the economy currently is "far stronger" then it was during the NDA regime.
Earlier, Jaitley said that two letter writers, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, and CPI (M) General Secretary Prakash Karat, were paralysing the government's economic policies. He also made a passing reference to another "letter writer" Union Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh.
The BJP leader criticised the Government for failing to take "bold" decisions on economic reforms and claimed that it's stand on important issues like SEZs and FDI retail were not clear.
Jaitley said "this is the budget of a reformist who does not want to rock the boat (of UPA government) He (Finance Minister P Chidambaram) has, therefore, reconciled to the status quo." Jaitley added that it is a Revenue Secretary's Budget. Describing him as a "high-tax" FM, the BJP leader said Chidambaram should take a decision to correct this impression.
Chidambaram, however, rejected the argument, saying that had he been so, investment rate would not have been as high. "High investment comes from high savings, which are due to higher disposable incomes," the FM said.
Rattling off statistics, Chidambaram said if growth and macro-economic conditions are measures to judge a government, then the UPA is doing very well. He also dismissed Jaitley's contention that there was no "bold" idea in the budget, the FM said "days of big, bang budgets are over. Reforms have taken root. Now, only incremental reforms can be carried out."
On the new income tax code, the FM said: "We are in the last leg of drafting the new income tax code... I shall be able to introduce it in Parliament by the end of the monsoon session."