Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram
Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram

Budget not a vote on account, but an account for votes: Chidambaram n Interim Budget

ANI | Updated: Feb 01, 2019 16:41 IST

New Delhi [India], Feb 1 (ANI): Senior Congress leader and former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Friday described the Interim Budget 2019-2020 presented by Union Minister Piyush Goyal as “not a vote on account, but an account for votes".
He trashed the new initiatives announced in the Budget as "last gasp announcements" by the government with an eye on the Lok Sabha elections,  and said that if they were important interventions then "what was the government doing for five years?”
“My one-line comment on the budget is that it was not a vote on account, but an account for votes. The interim Finance Minister tested our patience by the longest Interim Budget speech in recent memory. It was not an Interim Budget. It was a full-fledged budget accompanied by an election campaign speech. By doing so, the government has trampled on time-honoured conventions,” Chidambaram told media here.
“A government confident of returning to power would have respected the conventions. It is crystal clear that the government has no hope of returning to power and has therefore acted desperately and recklessly, and in violation of the Constitution,” he added.
“Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN)” - a new scheme for 12 crore small and marginal farmers with direct income support, a pension initiative for 10 crore unorganized sector workers, exempting income up to Rs 5 lakhs from Income Tax, reforms in stamp duty, budgetary allocation of Rs 3 lakh crore for Defence and record allocation of funds at Rs 58,166 crore for North Eastern Areas were some of the highlights of the Budget presented by Goyal.
“The big take away is that the present government has further weakened fiscal stability. For the second year in succession, the government has missed the fiscal deficit target. The revised estimate shows a slippage from 3.3 per cent to 3.4 per cent. For 2019-2020, the government has proposed an FD of 3.4 per cent… The government will end the year with a current account deficit (CAD) of 2.5 per cent as against the CAD in the previous year of 1.9 per cent,” Chidambaram said.
He added, “Both numbers for the current year and estimated FD for 2019-20 point to incompetent fiscal management and disdain for fiscal prudence. All of these are last gasp announcements by a government whose term will effectively end in about 90 days. The questions that naturally springs to one’s mind is that if these were necessary and important interventions, what was the government doing for five years?”
Chidambaram said that the government’s “desperation has proved by its announcement of the farmer’s income support scheme to provide a sum of Rs 6,000 per year to every small and medium farmer.”
“The fiscal deficit numbers are telling by recklessly breaching fiscal discipline. The government will fund the scheme this year entirely out of borrowed money of Rs 20,000 crore. Next year too, the scheme will be funded entirely out of borrowed money of Rs 75,000 crore. While I welcome the support of farmers, I ask what about the non-farmer poor? What about the urban poor? I have no doubt in my mind that the Congress’ announcement of a Minimum Income Guarantee will bring true relief to all the poor households and families of the country, both farmer and non-farmer, and both rural and urban,” he said. (ANI)