The Interim Budget documents confirm that the UPA government has grossly failed to live up to the promises it had made in the Common Minimum Programme; that its claims in successive budgets have been, as we have been warning all along, wholly fabricated; and that it is guilty of grossly mismanaging both the economy and
Mr Pranab Mukherji has listed the seven objectives that Mr. P.Chidambaram had spelled out in his first budget, and claimed that the government has fulfilled.
1. Far from placing the economy on a path of sustained growth of 7% to 8%, it is leaving the economy with a significant slowdown -- a slowdown that started as soon as the momentum created by the NDA ran out; a slowdown that has been caused by its mismanagement, a mismanagement it is trying to cover up by invoking the international economic crisis;
2. As far as "education and health" is concerned, the UPA had promised to spend at least 6% of GDP on education and 3% of the GDP on health. It even imposed a cess of 2% on all taxes to collect revenue for education. In fact, the outlays are nowhere near the promised levels. Moreover, the manner in which this money has been spent has remained opaque and apart from continuing with the Sarva Shikshan Abiyan initiated by the NDA government, this government has done nothing further in this field.
3. Far from "generating gainful employment and promoting investment", it is leaving behind an economy in which at least a crore of persons who till recently had jobs are now without work; and investment is collapsing all across the economy.
4. While the government had promised to assure "hundred days of employment to the breadwinner in each family at the minimum wage", its own report and those of the CAG show that in fact it is only in 14% of the cases that the promised days of employment have been provided; moreover, there have been widespread corruption and defalcation.
5. As for "focusing on agriculture, rural development and infrastructure" agricultural growth remained respectable only in the years in which there were good monsoons -- far from ensuring the interests of the farmers, its policies have driven the farmers to suicide; in the 47 days of 2009 alone, there have been in Vidarbha alone 112 suicides by farmers - these are the very farmers whom the Finance Minister has described as "the real heroes of India’s success story". Similarly, far from ensuring a focus on infrastructure, in fact the pace of infrastructure has been brought to a grinding slowdown -- a fact which is exemplified by the pathetic condition to which the National Highway Programme has been reduced: the project completion rate of this programme has fallen from 81% in 2004-05 to just around 50% now.
6. The claim about "accelerating fiscal consolidation and reform", is by now known by all to be farcical: in the Common Minimum Programme the UPA had pledged to eliminating the revenue deficit of the centre by 2009, so as to release more resources for investments in social and physical infrastructure"; in fact, even the Finance Minister is admitting that the revenue deficit this year will be 4.4% of the GDP and fiscal deficit will be 6% of GDP. The Finance Minister however is not telling the truth even in the interim budget. The Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, in a report published in January 2009, has estimated that the fiscal deficit will be at least 8% of the GDP. According to us, even this is an under-estimation. Given the massive shortfall in revenues, government of India’s fiscal deficit will exceed 10% of GDP. Once the deficits of the states are added, the UPA period would have plunged the country into unprecedented fiscal crisis.
7. As for "ensuring higher and more efficient fiscal devolution", the extent of devolution is determined by the Finance Commission; as for making the devolution more efficient, the UPA government has done absolutely nothing at all.
The UPA government claims to have ruled the country for the last five years in the name of the "Aam Admi" and yet it is the Aam Admi who has suffered the most during this regime because of its sheer mis-management of the economy. The Aam Admi has suffered like never before on account of unbridled price-rise of essential commodities which even today continue to rise in double digit, loss of livelihood, economic insecurity and insecurity of life and limb.
The interim budget has proved what we have been claiming all along namely that the budget presented by Shri P. Chidambaram on February 28, 2008 was a sham. That budget is in tatters today both on the expenditure as well as the revenue side. By under-funding various items of expenditure and not funding at all various others, he claimed the virtue of being within the FRBM targets. He and his government stand totally exposed today.
As the country has already been pushed into a deep economic crisis, the elementary duty of the government was to take strong and effective counter-measures. The statement of the Finance Minister shows that the UPA government has completely abandoned its responsibilities.
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