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Parliament proceedings | Budget for the rich, of the rich, by the rich, says P. Chidambaram

Congress leader P. Chidambaram speaks in the Rajya Sabha during the ongoing Budget Session of Parliament in New Delhi on February 11, 2021.   | Photo Credit: PTI

The Union Budget 2020-21 is a budget ‘for the rich, of the rich and by the rich’ senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram said in Rajya Sabha on Thursday and urged the government to amend it to provide cash transfers and free rations to the poor.

The former finance minister said this Budget was presented in the pretext of a pandemic and in the context of a slowing down economy pushed into deep recession.

“More than the text, pretext and the context, what is important is the subtext. The subtext is, this is a budget prepared for the rich, of the rich and by the rich. The Budget has done nothing for the poor of India who continue to suffer,” he said.

He said the Congress records its strongest protest and dissent against the Budget.

 

Referring to the new term andolanjeevi (professional protesters) coined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mr Chidambaram said, because the Congress dissents, they will be called andolanjeevi. But it is the parjeevis ( parasites) who control 73% of the country’s wealth.

Quoting various global economists including the former Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian, Mr. Chidambaram said that the economy was in the doldrums, with an eighth quarter of slowdown, by the time the COVID pandemic hit.

“The government was in denial. The government was refusing to accept the reality of a slowing economy and the government believed wrongly that the problem of India’s economy was cyclical and not structural,” the Congress leader said. Even then, Mr. Chidambaram said, the Congress had pleaded with the government to make two changes to give money to the poor in the form of cash transfers and to use “mountains of food grain” to give free rations.

He said, that government wrongly believes that the supply side responses will turn the economy around.

“The best way to stimulate demand is to put money in the hands of the people. The government has failed on that account. I repeat the charge — you are still not learning the lessons of the last 36-months,” Mr Chidambaram said, adding that because of the government’s ignorance the poor will continue to suffer.

 

He blamed “incompetent economic management” for taking the country back by four years. When the UPA demitted office, he said the GDP was ₹105 lakh crore, a little more than three times that in 2004-05 when the UPA first came to power. In 2017-18, it was ₹131 crore; in 2018-19, it crept up to ₹139 lakh crores; in 2019-20, it was a slower crawl to ₹145 lakh crore and in 2020-21, the year which is about to end, in the first half, it was about ₹60 lakh crores and the year may end with about ₹130 lakh crore.

“Three years of incompetent economic management and the honourable Finance Minister took exception to my using the word “ incompetent”. I can’t use a harsher word in Parliament. I am using the mildest word available to me. Three years of incompetent economic management will mean that at the end of the year 2020-21, we will be exactly where were in 2017-18,” Mr Chidambaram said.

The revenue projections for next year are ambitious and there will be a shortfall, he added.

“You have projected a nominal GDP growth of about 14.8% or 14.9%. Then you say it will still grow by 11%. The math is bewildering,” the former finance minister said. He said that as per his calculations based on the available numbers, this year will end at minus 10% or minus 11% and next year will grow by 9%. It is merely mechanical and the government should not claim credit for that growth.


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Printable version | Jul 23, 2021 8:43:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/budget-for-the-rich-of-the-rich-by-the-rich-chidambaram/article33811095.ece

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