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Committed to fiscal consolidation without compromise: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the fiscal deficit in the regular budget for 2019-20 has been pegged at 3.3% of the GDP as against 3.4% proposed in the interim budget.

delhi Updated: Jul 11, 2019 01:10 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
fiscal consolidation,nirmala sitharaman,union budget 2019
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman speaks in the Lok Sabha during the Budget Session of Parliament in New Delhi.(Photo: PTI)

The Centre will aim for fiscal consolidation without compromising on public expenditure, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Wednesday, and claimed the Union Budget gives a big picture of the Narendra Modi government that received a strong mandate in the recent parliamentary election. She said that economic growth and national security will be the focus of the government.

Replying to a debate on the budget in the Lok Sabha, Sitharaman said there has been an increase in allocation for almost every welfare programme for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, women and children, among others.

Opposition members walked out during her speech protesting against cess on petrol and diesel proposed in the budget and shouted slogans saying it was an “anti-people budget”.

Sitharaman had on Friday proposed to raise excise duty and road and infrastructure cess on petrol and diesel by Rs 2 per litre each to raise Rs 24,000-28,000 crore on an annual basis. Following the decision, the petrol price went up by a minimum of Rs 2.40 per litre and diesel by a minimum of Rs 2.36 a litre.

The Congress, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Trinamool Congress, National Conference, and Nationalist Congress Party walked out during the minister’s reply. Sitharaman did not speak about the issue in her reply.

The minister said the fiscal deficit in the regular budget for 2019-20 has been pegged at 3.3% of the GDP as against 3.4% proposed in the interim budget.

Sitharaman suggested that a liberal policy to attract foreign direct investment, increased investment in infrastructure creation, lowering of corporate taxes and other such measures have been taken to achieve the goal of making India a $5 trillion economy by 2024-25.

She said the budget substantially boosts investment in agriculture, health, education and affordable housing, reflecting the concern of the government for the common man. She suggested that greater investment and making India into a manufacturing hub will lead to more jobs.

“The government is committed to the path of fiscal consolidation without compromising on the public expenditure placed by the various sectors,” she said.

The finance minister also rejected the Opposition’s doubt about authenticity of the data mentioned in the budget and said they were authentic. “I will assure the House there is no need for any speculation on figures given in the budget and every number is authentic,” she said.

Responding to questions about discrepancy in data between the Economic Survey and the budget, Sitharaman said the budget has taken into account 12% growth in nominal GDP. She said although the Survey has projected a nominal GDP growth of 11% in 2019-20, the actual size of nominal GDP is the same.

When some members objected to her statement, she said, “Even if I am mocked at, sometimes I spoke like a teacher to a class of students...And even if that is not sufficient I am quite happy to receive members to room number 36 with due respect,” the finance minister said.

The minister said the government’s intention is to push infrastructure development and invest over ~100 lakh crore in the next five years. She said the government has increased Minimum Support Price (MSP) for all 22 commodities and the execution of the rural employment guarantee scheme has improved a lot compared to the United Progessive Alliance (UPA) government, when the CAG had pointed out at leakages and wrong doings in the scheme.

First Published: Jul 11, 2019 01:10 IST

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