'Congress' economic agenda non-serious'

'Congress' economic agenda  non-serious'

Having failed to deliver on most of its 2009 economic poll agenda, the Congress on Wednesday made fresh promises to lift millions of Indians out of poverty, squalor and disease by providing high economic growth accompanied with jobs.

It also vowed that it would streamline within a year the country’s archaic tax laws to benefit a sizeable chunk of middle-class.

Critics, however, were quick to retort saying these “non-serious” promises were made only to attract voters.

The manifesto promised flexible labour laws, systemic efforts to recover black money and curb runaway prices, a major reason for Congress’ defeat in four Assembly elections held late last year.

“We are committed to introduce in Parliament the Goods and Services Tax Bill (GST) and Direct Taxes Code Bill and ensure they are enacted within one year,” said the Detailed Action Plan 2014-19 in the 48-page long poll manifesto, the biggest ever by the Congress.

Economists were quick to question how a government which has not been able to resolve problems on the GST bill for the past five years, would solve them in the next one year.

“One year time period is a bit impractical. Had they said they would be able to bring GST in the next three-four years, one could believe them,” said Prof Arun Kumar, Sukhamoy Chakravarty Chair Professor, Centre For Economic Studies and Planning.

Kumar said manifestoes should not be taken very seriously. They are made only for publicity. No government till date has achieved its poll promises, he added.

N R Bhanumurthy, Professor at National Institute of Public Finance and Policy tried to read the commitment on GST bill in a different way and said, if the Congress comes to power by majority, bringing GST within one year is not “unachievable”.

On the claims of achieving above 8 per cent economic growth rate in less than three years time, Bhanumurthy sounded sceptical.

“It is a bit challenging. Even the Planning Commission has lowered the growth target for the entire 12th five-year plan period (2012-17). In that scenario, the government must come out with the detailed policy prescription on how they plan to achieve over 8 per cent at a time when the GDP growth has come down to less than 5 per cent,” he said.

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