Chidambaram tears into NDA's Budget

Chidambaram asked the government if the wealth created is for 142 billionaires
Last Updated : 08 February 2022, 11:38 IST

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Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Tuesday tore into the latest Union Budget of the 'No Data Available or the NDA government', saying the Narendra Modi dispensation has forgotten the poor as it is not creating jobs and throwing welfare to the winds while creating wealth for crony capitalists.

Initiating the debate on the Budget in Rajya Sabha, the senior Congress MP asked the government if the wealth created is for 142 billionaires, and if it is not shared, what was the purpose of creating the wealth.

“The word poor occurs twice in the budget. The word job appears thrice. One name appears six times and I compliment the Finance Minister for being loyal to her Prime Minister. You have forgotten the poor…Poor will not forget you. The poor have a long memory,” he said in his 20-minute speech as he referred to lower allocation for subsidies and MGNREGA.

On the job front, he said of the 139 crore people, 94 crore form the workforce and of this, only 52 crore have some kind of jobs. Those below 28.43 years – the median age of the Indian population – are looking for jobs even as the Modi government has promised two crore jobs every year while the CMIE report this morning says that urban unemployment is 7.4% and rural employment is 6.54%.

“There is just one statement in the Budget that 60 lakh jobs will be created in five years under the PM-Gati Shakti scheme, which is just 12 lakh per year. Annually, 47.5 lakh people are coming into the workforce and you are creating 12 lakh jobs only. What will the rest do? Answer is simple. They will fry and sell pakoras,” he said.

He said the GDP grew by 8.3% in 2016-17 but fell to 3.7% in 2019-20 before the Covid-19 pandemic struck. In constant terms, it was Rs 145 lakh crore and in 2020-21 it came down to 135 lakh crore due to the pandemic, he said.

Emphasising that one can say we are growing only when we grow beyond Rs 145 lakh, he said, “we haven’t reached that stage. The government claims we are running fast. But we are running fast to stay in the same place. You have to run fast to go ahead. You cannot run fast in the same place. This is not a treadmill,” he said.

Responding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s barb that the Congress was a ‘tukde, tukde gang’, he said disruption in business, science and technology among others bring about change and innovation and that he was not concerned about being described as a member of the gang as the translation could mean disruption.

“But when a question was posed, the Minister has said in Parliament that there is no data available with them.There is no data deaths due to oxygen shortage, there is no data on bodies flowing in the river, no data on migrants who walked home and no data on doubling of farmers’ income which has to happen in 2022,” he said.

However, he said, he has some data – the fiscal deficit was fixed at 6.8% last year and that he had cautioned against it but it ended up at 6.9%.

On disinvestment, the target was set at Rs 1.75 lakh crore, which Chidambaram said he had cautioned that it could be achieved only through “mindless” disinvestment. However, he said, he was grateful that the government could collect only Rs 78,000 crore.

He said the capital expenditure for 2021-22 was set at 5.54 lakh crore and the revised estimate was over Rs 6 lakh crore. Actually, he said, the fine print showed that the paying off loans of Air India has shown as capital expenditure and the actual was less at Rs 5.52 lakh crore, less than the Budget estimates.

The previous Budget has spoken about disinvestment of BPCL among others, privatisation of two banks and an insurance company, National Monetisation Pipeline and privatisation of 151 rail routes for which not a single bid was received, he said. “Why do you make such announcements if you do not have the capacity to implement it,” he said.

Noting that the Budget had shown that the nominal growth would be 11.1% but the new Chief Economic Advisor said the real growth would be 8%, Chidambaram said the Finance Minister should clarify which figure is correct as only one would be correct.

Published 08 February 2022, 11:38 IST

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