The Government’s fiscal measures came in for sharp criticism from the Opposition during a discussion on the Appropriation Bill in the Rajya Sabha on Saturday.
The Opposition said the Government’s biggest failure was its inability to arrest the spiralling prices of essentials.
Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said the Government was considering several hard steps to fix the economy. “Many of these measures are being taken, and many measures will be announced in the next few days and weeks,” he told the Upper House. “Some measures to curb import of inessential items will also be announced.”
Fuel price hike
Most of the members raised concerns over the Centre’s proposal to hike fuel prices further.
The Finance Minister responded by saying the Centre had taken no such decision. “…no decision will be taken without weighing the pros and cons of the larger public interest,” he said.
Admitting that the poor were worst hit by rising prices, he said the Government would gain nothing by taking a hasty decision that puts an extra burden on the poor. “And we are not fools on this side. Some decisions have been taken but these are painful decisions, which have to be taken keeping the larger interest,” said Chidambaram.
On the decline of the rupee, he said: “The rupee does not have a fixed exchange rate. We have moved from that. It has been beneficial for the country. We cannot go back to pre-1991 to a fixed exchange rate.”
The Opposition said the Centre had mismanaged the economy. “Is freezing of demand the only answer for arresting inflation? You should have managed the supply side, which you neglected, which you mismanaged, and that is why people have suffered,” said the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Prakash Javadekar.
The CPI(M)’s P. Rajeev urged the Centre to change its policies. “Whenever you try to solve a problem in the system, it opens the door to a deep crisis. It is like a parabolic graph – up and down, from crisis to crisis. Policies must be revised to address the root cause of the problem,” he said.