Budget 2020

‘Govt has given up on reviving the economy’

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on February 01, 2020 Published on February 01, 2020

Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram (right) with Randeep Surjewala addressing a press conference on the Union Budget at the Congress party office, in New Delhi   -  Sushil Kumar Verma

There’s no single idea that addresses slow demand, shrunk investments: Chidambaram

Opposition response to the longest Budget speech in recent times that left the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman exhausted, and put many MPs in the House to sleep, was sharp and sarcastic in contrast. While former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seemed to dismiss the Budget speech as having been “too long for me to absorb”, CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said he has “never heard a Finance Minister speak so much and say so little”.

From the Congress’s headquarters, former Finance Minister P Chidambaram said there is not a single memorable idea or statement in the Budget that addresses the two main concerns about the Indian economy – the strained demand and shrunk investments.

“The Indian economy is demand-constrained and investment-starved, and the Finance Minister has not even acknowledged these two challenges,” said Chidambaram. “You did not ask for such a budget and you did not deserve such a Budget for voting the BJP to power,” he said.

He said it is clear now that the government has given up on reviving the economy.

“I am at a loss to understand what was the message intended to be conveyed by Budget 2020-21. I am also not able to recall any memorable idea or statement in the speech. The government has given up on reviving the economy or accelerating the growth rate or promoting private investment or increasing efficiency or creating jobs or winning a greater share of world trade. There were multiple themes, segments and programmes leaving the listener dazed and confused. It was a laundry list of old (that is current) programmes. I am pretty certain that even the most loyal BJP MP or supporter cannot latch on to any idea or statement in the Budget speech and take it to the people,” said the former Finance Minister.

He said there is nothing in the Budget that leads one to believe that growth will revive in 2020-21 and the claim of 6 to 6.5 per cent growth next year is “astonishing and even irresponsible”, the former FM said.

Disconnect

He said the government “does not believe” in reforms and certainly not in structural reforms as the Finance Minister seems to have rejected every reform idea in the Economic Survey.

“Did the FM read the Economic Survey? Was the chief economic adviser privy to the content of the Budget speech? I think the answer to both questions is in the negative,” Chidambaram said.

According to Sitaram Yechury, the government has given no plan for recovery at a time when India is facing a grave economic crisis.

“There is no plan for recovery. It is a complete state of denial as far as the existing recessionary conditions are concerned. No roadmap for how we are going to overcome the basic cause for this economic slowdown, which is a drastic fall in the consumption level of the people, that is the lack of purchasing power in the hands of people. According to the Economic Survey itself, this is the basic cause for the slump in the growth. How that is going to be addressed is a crucial issue which has gone unanswered. So as an old saying goes, the less you have to say; the longer will be the speech and that has been proved today,” said Yechury.

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Published on February 01, 2020
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