CHENNAI: Former Union Finance Minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Saturday lashed out at the Centre over the 2018 budget, claiming that the budget is neither purposeful nor is contextual. Discussing the budget at the Loyola Institute of Business Administration (LIBA), he said, “This budget failed the test of fiscal consolidation, promoting welfare, relieving agriculture distress and promoting employment; taken as a whole it has failed the people of India.”
Launching a fierce attack on the Centre and on Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Chidambaram said, “We shot ourselves in the foot after that. We shot on the right foot with demonetisation. And before the right leg could heal, we shot ourselves with the implementation of GST. It is disappointing. I sincerely hope we will not shoot ourselves in the head next,” he said.
Terming the announcements made by Jaitley as ‘Jumla’ (fake promises), he said that schemes like health insurance for all would not materialise as the government had not allocated funds. “In 2016-17, the insurance scheme was given a quiet burial. Zero rupee is allocated for the 2017-18 budget insurance scheme. The current Government can’t raise funds for it,” he said, adding that the government was on a maximum taxation scheme from the common people, making it even harder to raise more capital for such schemes.
Speaking on the economy and employment opportunities, Chidambaram said that budget did not promote small and medium industries. “Large industries do not provide employment. It is a rule of thumb that a `1,000-crore large industry like a steel plant would generate about 1,000 jobs. But investing the same fund in small and medium industry would create thousands of jobs,” he said.
Referring to the International Labour Organisation (ILO)’s definition of a job, he said a job must be regular, certain and reasonably secure. Taking a dig at the Centre, he said, “Their (Centre’s) definition of a job is frying pakodas.”
He also said that the budget 2018 was focused less on agriculture. He noted, “The government is not only a reckless borrower but a reckless spender. The ‘hallmark of budget’ is rhetoric, focussed less on agriculture.”
“I had asked in Parliament what they would do when petrol and diesel prices went up and crude oil prices too increased. I asked, ‘Will you cut the excise duty and keep the prices at the same level or increase the prices of petrol and diesel?’ There has been no answer so far,” Chidambaram said.