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Govt living in denial, budget proposals unrealistic: Oppn

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

The Opposition in Rajya Sabha on Monday poked holes in the Budget proposals, saying they are based on "unrealistic" assumptions, and accused the Government of living in denial over the state of the economy.

Initiating the debate on the Union Budget for 2020-21, Congress leader P Chidambaram said the economy was close to collapse and was being attended by "very incompetent doctors."

He said rising unemployment and falling consumption was making India poorer and "fear and uncertainty prevails in the country".

Demonetisation and "hurried" implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) are "monumental blunders" that ruined the economy, he said, adding the Modi regime is predisposed to protectionism and is against bilateral and multilateral agreements.

"It is living in denial," he said, adding the economic growth has fallen for hereto unseen six consecutive quarters.

He said the 2019-20 budget projected a nominal GDP growth of 12 per cent but ended with just 8.5 per cent.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said the budget proposals are based on certain assumptions made by the Finance Minister which are "unrealistic" and "not credible".

The economy is going through a peculiar situation and the GDP growth has declined for six consecutive quarters even as the country is not facing any food shortage, no double digit inflation, high foreign reserve and low global crude prices, he said

"The budget is strong in length, weak in strength," he said, adding that the fundamental malice of the economy has not been addressed.

Ramesh also pointed that importance of budget has declined and three big decisions by the NDA government -- demonetisation, Goods and Services Tax (GST) and corporate tax cut -- were announced outside the budget.

Growth comes from investment but this has been falling because of decline in household saving. "Household savings have never been so low as they are today," he said.

"Budget talks about aspirational budget but it is a perspirational budget based on number of assumption," he noted.

Ramesh questioned if the government's plan to raise Rs 2.10 lakh crore from disinvestment of companies like LIC and IDBI and another Rs 1.33 lakh crore from telecom spectrum are realistic.

"Budget depends on IPO of LIC," he said and sought to know how the government will recapitalise banks.

He also suggested that the government focus on domestic investment instead of FDI.

"People are not investing as there is fear of tax laws and discretionary power of the government," he said.

On the direct tax, he said the government has "complicated" by creating more slabs in the name of simplification.

Trinamool Congress leader Manas Ranjan Bhunia alleged that a "financial Coronavirus" is being spread from North Block which is destroying the economy of the country.

He said the budget has dashed the hopes of people of the country as they had expected that the finance minister would come out with remedial measures to bring the economy out of the current crisis.

"Coronavirus has created a pandemic situation in China. In our country, I suspect that another financial coronavirus is being spread from North Block which is destroying the economy of the country," he said.

The BJP, however, countered the criticism of the union budget, saying it fulfils the aspirations of the people and the government is performing better on "all parameters" as compared to the previous UPA regime and has launched schemes for all sections of society.

Vinay P Sahasarabuddhe (BJP) said rise in customs duty would help the domestic industry to grow and regain its market share.

Though it would have some marginal run of inflation, but it would counter dumping of goods in India, he said.

NCP leader Praful Patel said the budget has failed to address the challenges faced by Indian economy like lower GDP growth and unemployment.

He said industry is under tremendous pressure because of demand slowdown and liquidity crunch but the government is not providing any support to address its problems.

Patel talked about stress in various industries, particularly auto and real estate.

The NCP leader rued that there is no new investment for setting up industries and also no private sector participation in the infrastructure sector.

In agriculture sector, he said Rs 6,000 year provided under the PM-KISAN is too less for farmers and called for another green revolution to lift the farm sector.

Patel said the disinvestment target is ambitious and will be difficult to achieve. He also raised the issue backlog in GST compensation to states.

"There is still time. The Finance Minister needs to come up with noble idea to correct the missed opportunity," he concluded.

Dola Sen (Trinamool Congress) asked the government to reconsider its decision to disinvest PSUs and alleged its policy was "anti-people and anti-Constitution".

Terming the budget as farmer friendly, A K Selvaraj of AIDMK welcomed the government's decision to spend 1.06 lakh crore on agriculture.

He praised the proposal for setting up cold storage chains and fast transit of agriculture products through trains and air.

Vishambhar Prasad Nishad (SP) said it was a Budget of statistics only and has nothing for the farmers.

Amar Patnaik of BJD said that the government has provided income tax relief to the common people and would invest substantial amount on infrastructure. He also welcomed the National Logistics Policy.

However, Patnaik highlighted that the gross share of states in the taxes has reduced and this is adding financial burden on states like Odisha.

Manoj Kumar Jha of RJD said he cannot relate to budget proposals as it has failed to address the challenges in sectors like health and eduction.

He said rising unemployment is a big problem before the country, but there is nothing in the Budget to deal with it.

Talking about Bihar, he said the central government has not provided special package or special status to the state. He also criticised the government for divesting stakes in the Life Corporation of India (LIC).

Ashok Siddarth (BSP) demanded that the budget allocations for SC/STs be commensurate with their population.

He also hit out at lower allocation for MNREGA programme as well at the Centres' policy of privatisation.

Criticising the budget proposals, T K Rangarajan (CPI-M) sought to know why the government plans to disinvest profit-making state-run Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) and said the policy holders are against such a move.

T K S Elangavan (DMK) said the budget has been prepared on a "false premise" with "false data".

"Every country is facing economic crisis, but no country is hiding the facts like us. The budget will further bring down the economy. The budget is going to be a grand failure," he said.

Anil Desai (Shiv Sena) said the ground reality is different from what was shown in the Budget.

Maharashtra has been left out of the budget share and the plan to disinvest LIC has come as a "shocker", he said.

Shiv Pratap Shukla (BJP) countered Chidambaram's criticism by citing figures of increase in outlay for various heads to counter the former finance minister.

Chidambaram had read out list of heads under which allocation has fallen - food subsidy, agriculture, PM- Kisan, rural roads, mid-day meal scheme, ICDS, skill development, Ayushman Bharat, rural development and MGNREGA.

K K Ragesh (CPIM) described the Budget as a "total failure" in addressing the present economic crisis.

"Honourable minister, you are giving more concessions to the rich but at the same time you are not taking any step to enhance the purchasing power of the common people.

"They (Centre) are talking too much on cooperative federalism but at the same time what they are doing is simply sabotaging the development agendas of various states," Ragesh alleged.

Naresh Gujral (SAD) complimented Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for carefully balancing the interests of the economy with prudent fiscal discipline, despite a huge pressure from many economists and industry forums who wanted her to pump in more liquidity to generate demand.

He highlighted the need for a separate financial institution to take care of funding needs of infrastructure projects with a long term gestation period.

Gujral also suggested that the government ensure the farmers a fair price for their produce in accordance with Swaminathan committee formula and sought increase in MNREGA outlay.

He expressed gratitude towards the Prime Minister on behalf of the Sikh community for raising the money that would be paid to those who suffered in the 1984 Sikh carnage, "which was not just unforgivable but also shameful".

M Shanmugam (DMK) alleged that the budget is full of empty promises, platitudes and slogans, and called it "very disappointing and short-sighted".

He claimed that the BJP government has not made any effort towards job creation and employment generation.

Kanakamedala Ravindra Kumar (TDP) and Madhusudan Mistry (Congress) also expressed their views on the Budget and gave various suggestions.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, February 10 2020. 20:36 IST