The Congress today said the Union budget was a “totally wasted opportunity” and accused the government of having “wrong” priorities with lesser outlays for various sectors including defence, agriculture and food.
“The general consensus was that it was a totally wasted opportunity. It beat the drums to a march that was not there,” senior Congress spokesperson and former finance minister P Chidambaram said. He said the country expected that at the end of the budget session there would be greater clarity about the state of the economy, but it is not so.
“Unfortunately, there is no such clarity. At the end of the session, we are no wiser than we were at the beginning of the session. The best that can be said about Budget was that no more harm was done to the economy,” he said. Chidambaram also criticised the Finance Bill for having non-money matters in “flagrant violation of accepted norms and conventions” and the sole purpose of doing so was to avoid scrutiny in Rajya Sabha.
“It was an assault on the Constitution of India. We hope that courts will pronounce on the legality of such devices,” he told reporters. He said the Finance Bill was passed as a Money Bill when it will be apparent to anyone familiar with Article 110 of the Constitution that it ceased to be a Money Bill upon the addition of matters falling outside Article 110.
The Congress leader said his party had pointed to many unacceptable provisions in the Finance Bill like the amendment to the Income-tax Act and the provisions relating to electoral bonds. “The first is an example of tax terrorism and the second is intended to make political funding more opaque and more partial,” he said.
Chidambaram dubbed the GST Bills as “imperfect bills” and wanted that October 1 was the right time to introduce GST in the country, instead of the current July 1 deadline. On the Appropriation Bill, he said the priorities of the government were wrong and the most affected areas were Defence, Agriculture, MGNREGA, Fertiliser Subsidy, Food Subsidy and PMGSY.
“All of them will receive less funds as percentage of GDP this year than in the previous year,” he said. He also noted that between January 2015 and January 2017, Gross Bank Credit to all industries increased by a meager Rs 7,413 crore, which was only 0.29 per cent and the IIP increased by a mere 1.1 per cent, from 189.2 to 191.3.
The Growth of Gross Fixed Capital Formation was 6.1 per cent in 2015-16, while in 2016-17 this plummeted to 0.57 per cent. The actual growth of economy is moderate, he said, and growth is moderate growth as according to Labour Bureau only 1.09 jobs have been created.
“We have seen jobless growth. This must be viewed against the promise to create 2 crore jobs every year,”he said.