Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Saturday said the budget has a blend of stimulus measures and well-thought out reforms, aimed at putting the Indian economy on a steady growth path in the years to come. Defending the economy policy of the government in a reply to a debate on the Budget, she said the pandemic did not deter the government from taking necessary reforms towards long-term growth. Instead, the government has been successful in bending the Covid curve and as “a result the revival of the economy looks more sustainable”.
Echoing the Prime Minister’s call to encourage the private sector, Sitharaman underscored the importance of private enterprise and said that “unless wealth creators create wealth”, there is nothing to redistribute in the economy.
“…we have managed to bend the (Covid) curve and as a result the revival of the economy looks a lot more sustainable and this Budget, therefore, gives the necessary impetus. The challenging situation of the pandemic did not deter us from taking up reforms which are going to be necessary for sustaining a long term growth for this country. We made many announcements and in the budget have kept the pace with other reforms,” she said.
Taking on the Opposition, she said unlike the Congress party which followed socialist, communist and licence quota raj policy from 1948 until 1991 when it ushered in “reforms under duress”, the BJP government has laid out well thought out reforms to support Indian entrepreneurs, wealth creators, MSMEs while respecting honest taxpayers and citizens.
In a critical review of the policies adopted by the then governments between 1948 and 1975, Sitharaman said these socialistic policies harmed Indian enterprises.
“In the economic history of India, it is important to trace this route since 1948 when we with great adoration adopted socialistic policies. With great adoration, nationalised institutions and with great adoration, had a kind of a blend of Indian hybrid socialism and a certain kind of licence quota raj. All of which started denigrating Indian businesses, all of which made businesses absolutely difficult to perform, constricted our enterprises, particularly the small and medium ones, too many questions, too many licences, ended stifling these businesses,” she said.
“And it is that which the same party between 1948 and 1975 happily took upon itself 1991. I concede it was under duress. Shifts from socialism to complete opening of the economy and even today will want to harp on: oh, 1991 it is we who opened up the economy, it is we who have given you a free market approach and it is we who are reformists. The very same party which from 1948 constricted the Indian economy, in 1991 says we have opened up and given reform and repeatedly asks us, asks the Prime Minister: where’s your reform credential,” she said.
Unlike the Congress party, the BJP’s belief in Indian economy and private enterprise has been consistent, she said. Even the disinvestment in the PSE (Public Sector Enterprises) policy unveiled by the government does not allow for any kind of “elementary or rudimentary approach to it”, instead it clearly states the path forward, she said. The budget has estimated divestment receipts at Rs 1.75 lakh crore in the next fiscal year, and announced strategic sale of two public sector banks, one insurance company apart from listing of LIC.
“I like to put before the House that since Jan Sangh days, respecting Indian entrepreneurial skills, Indian managerial skills, Indian trade skills, Indian business skills, Indian youth, Jan Sangh onwards, BJP has consistently believed in India. We did not borrow from somewhere and give a hybrid. We never borrowed. At one point of time, because we are close to Russia, so we’ll do one thing, which is very command controlled regime, the centralised planning regime and then suddenly we think even China is moving in that route of supporting capitalism so therefore we’ll also have to do it. No, Sir, our belief in India, in Indian businesses and in Indian economic strength has been consistent from Jan Sangh to BJP to now BJP going in a steady line of belief in Indian enterprises, give them the maximum freedom, give them the maximum respect that they so deserve,” she said.
While promoting entrepreneurship, the budget has provided support to Micro Small and Medium Enterprises and raised spending on health, water and sanitation, she said. Pointing to the increased spending by the government for MNREGA last year due to the pandemics, Sitharaman said the government will spend more for the scheme this year if needed.