Hyderabad: Former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram pulled no punches in describing the new Union Budget as detrimental towards investors, consumers and the poor. He reiterated the former Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subranamanian’s analogy that likened the economic situation during NDA-II as a “patient in the ICU (Intensive Case Unit).
From the onset at the talk on the union budget held at the Muffakham Jah College of Engineering and Technology, Chidambaram decried the ‘rudderless speech’ of Nirmala Sitharaman. The event was organized by Sultan-ul-Uloom Educational Society.
Whether it was the agricultural sector, industry, various unorganized sectors or the hyped-up government schemes, he left no stone unturned in pointing out deficiencies.
“How can a government that can’t admit its blunders of demonetisation and GST in the budget put forth a road map for economic recovery? That too, a regime which “is cruel, incompetent and heartless when it comes to the poor?” he asserted.
During his keynote address and the subsequent Q and A session, he highlighted the government’s limited spending ability and the Indian consumer’s dwindling buying capacity. This was attributed to the fact that money isn’t in circulation. Referring to his observations in Hyderabad he said he was surprised to see, “Brand stores like Van Heusen empty.”
He added, “For the last four years, rural and urban wages are stagnant. This is why household consumption has declined.”
Besides the government’s fiscal deficit and the consumer expenditure, the investment sector is beleaguered. The giants like Infosys and Tata are not investing despite the high amount of cash they possess.
Certain benchmarks, such as a fresh engineering graduate’s salary and the state of car manufacturers, were singled out as indicators of a healthy economy. Chidambaram cited the Rs. 8,000 wages for the former and the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers’ figure of two lakh automotive workshops shut down for the latter.
Citing only half the amount of the allocated Rs 60,500 crore spent for the ambitious the Ayushmaan Bharat Health Program, Chidambaram debunked this well-marketed scheme.
Towards the end of his address, he summed up the Modi government’s economic trajectory by defining the previous fiscal years with a specific theme. “2016-2017 was the year of demonetisation. 2017-18 gave us the fraudulent GST. The following year saw slipping GDP and year after that was a wasted one,” he summarized.
He then asked, “Is this why we gave this government a majority?”