Get rid of CEA if his ideas aren’t useful: Chidambaram

Get rid of Chief Economic Advisor if his ideas aren’t useful: P Chidambaram to Govt

If the government doesn’t do the needed course correction, 2020-2021 might also be a “wasted year” like 2019-2020, Chidambaram said

Contending that the managers of economy are “incompetent”, Chidambaram said the government should revive or energise three of the four engines of growth. (Credit: PTI Photo)

Former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Monday prodded influential industry bodies to actively articulate their concerns on government policies when every other section of the society was actively questioning the Narendra Modi dispensation on various issues. 

Tearing into the Union Budget 2020-21 presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on February 1, Chidambaram, while analysing the budget proposals at an event organised by the Southern India Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI), said the annual exercise “lacked narrative” and accused the government of still being in the denial on economic crisis. 

The budget was so lacklustre that its contents have disappeared from the front page of newspapers and television channels. It is like a movie bombing after its first show, the senior Congress leader remarked and rued that the Finance Minister had done nothing to address issues ailing the economy.

“You (chambers and industry bodies) are not speaking enough. If academicians, economists, students, even women and homemakers can come out and make their voices heard why can’t you speak and voice your concern? What is it that they can do to you (if you voice concerns). Speak up,” Chidambaram told industry leaders. 

Admitting there has always been “a gap” between the Budget speech and the Economic Survey, former Union Minister P Chidambaram on Monday said there was a “complete mismatch” between the two documents this time around. He accused Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of not listening to the Chief Economic Advisor. 

“There is complete mismatch between the Economic Survey and the Budget speech. If there is nothing useful in two volumes of the Economic Survey that run into 700 pages, why do you have the CEA? Get rid of him if you don't find any ideas of him useful for you,” Chidambaram said.

The senior Congress leader also faulted the Finance Minister for not putting money into the hands of the people by allocating more funds to Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and Prime Minister Kisan Yojana that could have stimulated demand. 

More funds to MGNREGA and PM Kisan Yojana would have put money in the pockets of the people who would have spent it instantly, Chidambaram said, adding that the government hasn’t done anything to stimulate demand and attract new investments. 

Contending that the managers of economy are “incompetent”, Chidambaram said the government should revive or energise three of the four engines of growth – government expenditure, private investment, private consumption and exports-- to bring the economy back on track.

“We have a very ill patient and a rather incompetent doctor, and I presume we will go through a very difficult time in 2020-2021. I expected these rather incompetent managers to change their behaviour in the face of a crisis. But they continue to be in denial and that is my biggest complaint,” Chidambaram said. 

He also expressed the hope that the government would listen to advice from the Opposition and make some course correction like it did last year.  “They (government) made changes to its announcements last year and I hope they will do this year as well. If they have to do, they just have to do it. We in the opposition hope they will take our advice and do something to revive our economy so that it hits six or seven percent growth,” Chidambaram said. 

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