Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi said Monday that the NDA government’s budget lacked “both vision and conviction”. Former finance minister P Chidambaram termed it a “wasted opportunity” and argued that it neither has any “big idea” nor does it signal an intent to undertake reforms. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too argued that the budget lacked a “big idea”.
“Modiji spent the first two years mocking the Congress Party’s focus on farmers, MGNREGA, rural development and social spending. Now mere rhetoric, without vision or action, will fool neither farmers nor the poor of this country. Budget 2016 lacks both vision and conviction. A list of new promises without any account of the failure of tall promises made in last 2 budgets,” said Rahul.
Chidambaram said no attention was paid to three areas crying for attention — rural economy, private investments and exports.
“The PM had promised that he would “reform to transform”. The word reform is a little understood but much used word. Reform means reform of factor markets or product markets. There is little evidence of such reform in the budget. So, the NDA has followed its own brand of budget making, which is just housekeeping and accounting. Thanks to the crash in oil prices, that required hardly any effort,” Chidambaram said.
Refraining from rating the budget, he said one should look at it sectorally. “Who is happy? Is the tax payer happy? I doubt it. Is the homemaker happy? I doubt it. Is the middle class happy? I seriously doubt it. Are the markets happy…they have said thumbs down….my overall impression is that with 282 members in Lok Sabha…they should have attempted bold structural reforms…I have to conclude regrettably that it is a wasted opportunity.”
He said although he was happy that the government has achieved the fiscal deficit target and has stuck to its fiscal consolidation path, it is disheartening that it had turned its back on rural India, agriculture sector, and social sector programmes. He said funds allocated for general education, medical and public health, housing, social security and welfare and irrigation sectors were not fully spent.
Both Chidambaram and Singh argued that the government’s plan to double farmers’ income in the next five years was an impossible dream.
“There is no big idea except one, which was yesterday mentioned by the PM himself that the government plans to double the farmers’ income in next five years…I think that is an impossible dream and there is no inclination or no way of telling the country how it will be achieved because it implies a 14 per cent increase in foreign income for each of the five years,” Singh said.
Chidambaram agreed. “Farm income will increase in five years only if you address issues of price and productivity. This budget is silent on both. Manmohan is right. It is very unlikely farm income will double in five years.”