‘Economy in need of intensive care’: Oppn hits out at Centre
Chidambaram, who led the Opposition’s charge against the government in a discussion on the Union Budget in Parliament’s upper House or Rajya Sabha, said the economy is facing demand constraints and is investment starved while “fear and uncertainty prevails in the country.”Updated: Feb 11, 2020 02:00 IST
Former Union finance minister P Chidambaram on Monday likened the state of the economy to a patient in need of intensive care but who is denied the right treatment by incompetent doctors.
Chidambaram, who led the Opposition’s charge against the government in a discussion on the Union Budget in Parliament’s upper House or Rajya Sabha, said the economy is facing demand constraints and is investment starved while “fear and uncertainty prevails in the country.”
He referred to experts like former Reserve Bank of India governors Raghuram Rajan and Urjit Patel, ex-chief economic advisor, Arvind Subramanian, and former NITI Aayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya to underline how every “competent doctor” the government could ever identify has left the country.
“I would say the patient [economy] has been kept out of the ICU [intensive care unit] and incompetent doctors are looking at the patient. It is dangerous to have the patient out of the ICU and being looked after by incompetent doctors. What is the point of standing around and chanting slogan Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas?” he asked.
Chidambaram added he wants to know who the government’s doctors for the economy were. He maintained that the government considers his party, the Congress, an untouchable and does not think any good about the rest of the opposition and so does not consult them.
He wondered why Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman spoke for 160 minutes to present the budget on February 1. Chidambaram said she did not talk about the problems faced by the economy and its management. He added the budget neither made any reference to the Economic Survey nor picked up a single idea from it.
“You are living in echo chambers. You want to hear your own voice,” he said. Chidambaram added the government refused to admit its mistakes, lives in denial and has predispositions.
He called the demonetisation of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes in 2016 and the hurried implementation of the Goods and Services Tax the following year “monumental blunders”. Chidambaram said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is predisposed to protectionism and is against bilateral and multilateral agreements.
Chidambaram said there has been a decline in GDP growth for six consecutive quarters and a dip in that of agriculture by 2%. He added that consumer price inflation has risen to 7.4%. Chidambaram said thermal power plants were operating at just 55% of their capacity. “You are in management for six years. How long can you blame previous managers?” he asked.
Chidambaram’s party colleague, former Union minister Jairam Ramesh, said that failing savings rate is a matter of concern and there is fear among domestic investors.
Nationalist Congress Party leader Praful Patel challenged the government to name any industry, which has invested Rs 5,000 crore anywhere in the country.
Samajwadi Party lawmaker Ravi Prakash Verma criticised the government for not allocating enough money for the health sector.
The debate on the budget continued in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on Monday and Sitharaman was due to reply to it on Tuesday before Parliament goes for a month-long recess.
Later in the day, BJP tweeted, “If we connect the dots between Budgets of 2019 and 2020, it becomes clear that Modi govt is on a path of seamless delivery of its promises.”
BJP MP Arun Singh, supporting the budget underlined how the fiscal deficit has been reduced to just 3.8% from the staggering 5.1% of the UPA regime. He also added that Repo rate has also been brought down by the Modi government to 5.1% from the UPA’s 8%.
Another BJP MP, Nand Kumar Singh, defended GST and maintained it was a difficult step to take but Modi idn’t shy from taking the important step to roll out the GST. He brushed away Opposition’s criticism to add that Modi government is working for the greater good.