Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Wednesday dismissed speculations surrounding the GDP figures quoted in the Union Budget, saying “every number is authentic”.
Replying to the debate on her maiden Union Budget in the Lok Sabha, Sitharaman said the difference in the growth rate projected in the Economic Survey against the figures quoted in the Budget was because a lower GDP base was taken as reference in the 2019 interim budget.
The Economic Survey, released by Chief Economic Adviser Krishnamurthy Subramanian a day before the Union Budget, pegged the nominal GDP growth at 12 per cent while the Budget projected it at 11 per cent.
When asked about the disparity in the figure, Sitharaman said, “As compared to the Economic Survey, the one projected in the Budget is on a lower GDP base because the Interim Budget also used the same lower GDP base which ensures comparability between the Interim and regular.”
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“Deficit ratios projected can be compared so I hope scholars understand the consistency with which the budget document is produced as opposed to the figures in the Economic Survey,” she further said.
Sitharaman on $5 trillion economy
Leading on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious agenda of making India a five trillion dollar economy by 2024-25, Sitharaman said the Budget catered to that goal. “In order to achieve the $5 trillion economy target, we spoke of effectively bringing investment into the economy, for generating jobs, towards manufacturing within India which are steps to ensure investment is drawn into the country,” she said.
Sitharaman also made it clear that the government’s intention was to push infrastructural development with an investment of Rs 100 lakh crore budgeted over the next 5 years.
Sitharaman on fiscal consolidation
The Union Finance Minister said the government was committed to follow the path of fiscal consolidation without compromising on public expenditure. Despite sluggish tax collections, Sitharaman has chosen to stick to the gilded path, projecting to bring down the fiscal deficit to 3.3 per cent of GDP in 2019-20 from 3.4 per cent.
Sitharaman on GST, electric vehicles
This was the second full-fledged Budget after the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on July 1, 2017. Speaking in Parliament, Sitharaman said the government would ask the GST Council to reduce the tax rate on e-vehicles from 12 per cent to 5 per cent. Besides, the government will give an additional tax benefit of Rs 1.5 lakh on the interest paid on loans taken for the purchase of EVs.
‘Har Ghar Jal’ by 2024
The finance minister said making available safe drinking water to every citizen was a priority for the government that is working towards ‘Har Ghar Jal’ mission by 2024. “We will work with states for supplying tap water to all the rural household by 2024,” she said.
Sitharaman on agriculture sector
Refuting allegations that the Union Budget did not take into consideration the agriculture sector, Sitharaman said the government was looking at doubling farmers’ income by 2024.
“We have adopted comprehensive solutions for agriculture concerns as our government realised the sector needs huge transformation by 2022,” she said, adding that India has been topping the charts in production of several agricultural products since 2014.
Taking a swipe at the former UPA government, Sithraman said, “Unlike before, farmers do not have to face any lathi charge while waiting in queues to collect their fertilisers since 2014.”
“Our measures, in compliance with the Swaminathan Committee recommendations, have made a difference to the farmers. Under the adoption of new Minumum Support Price (MSP) policy, all the commodities that were notified have witnessed a big jump in MSP,” she said.
‘Inflation down to 3%’
Amid sloganeering by Opposition MPs in the Parliament, Sitharaman said inflation had come down to 3 per cent since Modi government took charge in 2014.
“Talking about food inflation, the figures are even worse, which the Opposition will not want to hear because the Consumer Price Index for food inflation was pegged at 6.4% in 2014-15 whereas, as of March 2019, it stands at 0.3%,” she said.