Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Monday termed “puerile” the BJP’s charges against the UPA government over its management of the economy.

Citing the latest official data, he said: “At the year ending, the fundamentals of the economy are stable with no threats of a downgrade and in fact [there is] a strong external position.”

He was addressing a press conference on the economy at the close of financial year 2013-14.

“Inflation is now falling, though it is still not low enough,” he said, admitting that the economy would have performed better had regulators and the Ministry of Environment not slowed down approvals.

Releasing the latest data, he said the fiscal deficit for 2013-14 was 4.6 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product, as planned. At the close of the year, foreign exchange reserves were growing and in excess of $300 billion, and the current account deficit at $35 billion was contained, much below the target of $60 billion.

Referring to the collapse of the Wall Street firm Lehman Brothers, Mr. Chidambaram said: “Politicians don’t realise that what happened on September 15, 2008, was a watershed event. Till that point, India’s economic performance on every single parameter under the UPA was the best ever in the history of India — the GDP growth that year was 9.3 per cent, the savings-to-GDP ratio was 36.8 per cent, the investments-to-GDP ratio was 38.1 per cent, fiscal deficit was 2.5 per cent of the GDP and revenue deficit was 1.1 per cent of the GDP.”

Without naming the former Union Finance Minister and BJP leader, Yashwant Sinha, he said: “The FM who presided over the economy when the GDP growth rates were even lower than the lowest during the UPA’s term — 4 per cent and 4.3 per cent during 2002-3 and 2000-1 — is now a distant memory and will remain so.”

“We all know how he was eased out of the Finance Ministry,” Mr. Chidambaram added.

The BJP held a press conference to respond to Mr. Chidambaram’s charges, but gave incorrect data to make its point.

BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad asked when the BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh were growing at rates above 10 per cent, why could not the UPA government deliver the same? The data from the Central Statistics Office, however, show that these States are in fact growing at sub-10 per cent rates.

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