February 18, 2020
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"Interest Rates Are The Biggest Challenge"

A visibly happy P. Chidambaram spoke to Arindam Mukherjee the evening after the Budget. Excerpts:

"Interest Rates Are The Biggest Challenge"

Your first full Budget has been termed the best in the 1990s. The sensex rose by over 200 points...

These are but initial reactions. Let’s wait till the next week when the finer prints get more legible. We’ll gauge the applause then. As far as the BSE is concerned, it only shows MAT was never an issue.

What has been your biggest challenge in this Budget?

The interest rates. At the current Indian interest rates, it is very difficult to get investments.

But you have not really been able to reduce interest rates. Cost of funds is still extremely high.

I’ve made a beginning and I’m trying. Let’s see where I land up.

And food sector management?

That’s another challenge and has to be monitored on a day-to-day basis. Here too, we have made a beginning through the revamped PDS. The Government and I are committed to providing more support, funds, if necessary, to make the targeted PDS an outstanding success.

You said you wanted an A team for an Expenditure Management Commission. You got a B team instead...

Yes, my A team was present in both Houses of Parliament but they were not ready to join me. Yes, they are politicians but I cannot give you the names.

Why did you want politicians? Why not economists, administrators?

You see, in India, nothing works or gets implemented without the politician’s seal.

Is health insurance a test run for a full opening up of insurance?

Let’s see how this fares.

Will lowering of personal income tax work?

By moderating taxes we want to increase compliance. We want to give more disposable income in the hands of people and want them to spend it. Or perhaps save.

Why the delay on the money laundering and companies bills?

The Companies Bill is not ready. Frankly, I would like to do it tomorrow.

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