NEW DELHI: Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Monday said that the NDA government's target of making India a five trillion dollars economy is a "very attractive slogan," but there is no magic in it.
"We will become a five-trillion-dollar economy by 2024, on this I can say this promise they will achieve. It's a very attractive slogan. Undoubtedly a five trillion economy is very impressive," Chidambaram said at an event here.
"But I make another promise, five years from that date, in 2028-29 we will become a 10 trillion dollars economy. And five years from that date we will become a 20 trillion dollars economy. There is no magic in it. Any money lender knows this. If your nominal GDP grows by 12 per cent a year, in 6 years it will double," he added.
Analysing the Union Budget, which was presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on July 5, Chidambaram said, "We have more of the status quo. Growth will be status quo, FDI will be status quo, domestic savings will be status quo, policies will be status quo, programs will be status quo. We can end on the note thank God we will not regress, we will remain where we are."
He added, "The consequences of this are that the other promises will not be fulfilled. There is a promise to dramatically improve education which requires massive investment, massive retraining, massive re-skilling of teachers, massive infrastructure improvement... All that will not change because there are no dramatic improvements happening within the economy."
He went on to add, "On the health side, one out of two children is anaemic; one out of three children is stunted; one out of five children is wasted. That won't be improved dramatically either because that requires massive investment in the health sector."
Chidambaram gave an example of Bihar's Muzaffarpur district, where according to the latest official data the death toll due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) mounted to 142 in Muzaffarpur district on Monday.
"It was found that all the primary health centres in that district were rated by the Ministry of Health as getting zero out of five points, all of them. And it was found that the Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) which had a so-called paediatric ICU, did not qualify to be a paediatric ICU. All that won't change because there is no money to do that and there are no structural reforms to change that," he said.
Chidambaram said that the Budget "won't change the life of the bottom 20 per cent" of the population in the country.
"According to me those are the forgotten 20 per cent. Every parent of the 140 children who died in Muzaffarpur district, 88 per cent of those parents fall under the category of that bottom 20 per cent. Their average monthly income for a family was Rs 5,700," he said.
He added, "According to me, fundamental transformation will mean something and we can be proud of it only if it touches the lives of the bottom 20 per cent. And there is nothing in the Budget that touches the lives of the bottom 20 per cent. I wish the Finance Minister had devoted at least a few paragraphs to talk about the bottom 20 per cent. Why are these people forgotten? Is it because we always want an underclass to do our jobs?"
Chidambaram also stated that the Budget is "bereft of anything meaningful to the farmers."