Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Monday declared that the Indian economy is in a much better shape now with rising foreign exchange reserves (at $300 billion) and fiscal and current account deficit under control.
“The economy today is far more stable and far stronger than what it was 20 months ago and what we fear may happen has not happened. And going forward, I can only see spirited growth in the economy, provided the next government adheres to the 10-point agenda that I have outlined in my interim Iudget,” he said while addressing the media at the AICCI headquarters here.
He said the government would end the year with a fiscal deficit of 4.8 per cent as planned and the Current Account Deficit or CAD is now likely to be much smaller, at about $35 billion.
While calling BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi as an exponent of “crony capitalism” and terming the 18 questions posed by former finance minister Yashwant Sinha on the economy as “puerile”, Chidambaram said that the country recorded the lowest growth in 2000-2001 when Sinha was at the helm.
Taking a potshot at Sinha, Chidambaram said, “Yashwant Sinha is a distant memory in people's mind and I hope he remains that. Hope I can hand over the economy to another firm hand.”
Chidambaram, who has chosen not to contest elections and has handed over his constituency to his son Karti Chidambaram who is making his debut in Sivaganga, said “Business is quite comfortable with Dr Manmohan Singh and UPA finance ministers but there are sections of businesses which are extremely comfortable with Mr Narendra Modi because his brand of capitalism is crony capitalism.”
Chidambaram asserted that the next finance minister would not be of Modi's choosing, and added, “I will keep a firm hand on the wheel till the last day and I will hand over the wheel to a firm hand.”
The minister said the government has been able to contain the fiscal deficit and CAD. “Our reserves today have crossed $300 billion. We expect to add $25 billion by end of today to our reserves. And CAD, which is originally estimated at under $60 billion, is now likely to be much smaller. Perhaps about $35 billion...Nobody talks about a downgrade anymore, the fundamentals have strengthened,” he added.
Regarding the 18 questions posed by Sinha, Chidambaram said, “Many of them are quite puerile questions”.
Accusing Chidambaram of playing “spoiler” and “ruining” the economy, Sinha had over the week-end sought replies on issues such as declining growth, rising inflation and a poor track record on job creation.
Chidambaram acknowledged that inflation was contained but not tamed and added that post the mid-term monetary policy announcement by the Reserve Bank of India on Tuesday the government could look at easing restrictions on gold imports.