More steps will be taken to sustain economic recovery: Jaitley

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley speaks in Lok Sabha during the Budget session in New Delhi on Friday.  

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday defended his budget andsaid that there was “no contradiction in being pro-business and being pro-poor.” Only a spike in economic activity could create the resources “to service the poor” through social welfare programmes.

Replying to the general debate on the 2014-15 Union budget, approved later by the Lok Sabha, Mr. Jaitley outlined a road map for economic recovery through a stable tax regime, targeted subsidies for the poor and marginalised and using private investment to boost infrastructure and housing, foreign direct investment (FDI) in defence and insurance. Simultaneously, he clarified how the direction of his budget differed from that of the previous government. He said that the BJP-led NDA regime, had pushed for fiscal discipline than populism and it intended to rationalise subsidies so that they benefitted the poor, not the middle class through subsidies in the oil sector and education.

Appealing to the Opposition to help build consensus on as many economic policies as possible, he said, that was the only way to grow as a nation.

He said that under the previous government, the credibility of the Indian economy took a hit over the last two or three years, expressions such as “policy paralysis” and “tax terrorism” entered the economic vocabulary, and both domestic and international investment fell sharply. In this connection, he flagged both corruption and the Vodafone retrospective tax cases.

In an easy mix of Hindi and English, occasionally poking fun at the Opposition, Mr. Jaitley spoke extempore, from his notes, looking totally at ease. He also mentioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi more than once, saying no Finance Minister could achieve anything without the full backing of the PM.

If he criticised the UPA government, and took potshots at Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjuna Kharge who, he said, did not have the courage to increase the rail fares and freight hike— that had been cleared by the UPA government — he also gave the predecessor regime credit where it was due. Mentioning that the Wholesale Price Index increase for June was 5.43 per cent and the Consumer Price Index 7.31 per cent, the lowest in the last 30 months, he said he could “not claim credit for it because this is a continuation of several policies”.

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 6:00:13 PM |

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