West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra, in an hour-long discussion on the State budget, on Thursday gave a part by part reply to the various points raised against the budget but did nothing to allay the apprehensions of the budget triggering an inflationary spiral, voiced by the political opposition and the chambers of commerce alike.

Giving his replies after a four-hour long discussion on the budget in the Assembly, he claimed that there was full justification for extending a moratorium for West Bengal. As per the recommendations of the 12{+t}{+h}Finance Commission, there was no bar on giving some relief to States like West Bengal, which was declared debt-stressed (along with Kerala and Punjab) in 2004.

The Finance Minister was scathing in his criticism of the Centre, which, he said, had pledged Rs 50,000 crore for helping Euro zone to emerge from its financial crisis. Even as Congress legislator Manas Bhunia had in his post budget observations, ticked off Mr. Mitra for his comments, Mr. Mitra shot back saying that he did not see logic “in someone rushing with fire engines to douse a neighbour’s fire when his own house was aflame.”

On his move to raise VAT rates at the lower end by one per cent, Mr. Mitra sought to remind the House that the Chairman of the Empowered Committee on VAT had in July 2010, made it possible to increase VAT rates from four to five per cent in view of the difficult financial condition of some States. “ This was done by consensus”, he said in an oblique reference to his bete noire Asim Dasgupta, Mr. Mitra’s predecessor was the Chairman of the Empowered Committee on VAT.

Mr. Mitra dismissed charges that imposing an entry tax would need Presidential assent, brought by the Leader of the Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra. Mr. Mitra said : “ Compensatory entry tax does not need Presidential assent .. if you think the government does not carry out this much of due diligence then you are mistaken.”

He said that the record of youths getting placed through the employment exchange during the previous regime was shameful and the figure moved in inverse proportion to increasing unemployment. Mr. Mitra’s estimate of creating 10.2 lakh new jobs between April 2012 and January 2013 mentioned in the budget, was disputed by the Left.