Seeking to dispel the Opposition charge that the GDP figures published by the government are not consistent everywhere, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told Lok Sabha Wednesday that every “number is authentic”.
“The nominal GDP figures published in the Budget, the Economic Survey, and the Interim Budget in February are all authentic data. I will assure the House there is no need for any speculation on figures given in Budget and every number is authentic,” she said.
Sitharaman said the fiscal deficit in the regular Budget for 2019-20 has been pegged at 3.3 per cent of the GDP as against 3.4 per cent proposed in the Interim Budget in February. She said if any member of the House still had questions about the data, she would be willing to explain personally outside Lok Sabha as well.
She said the Budget was focused on the path of fiscal consolidation without compromising on public expenditure. “Economic growth and national security would be the focus of the government,” she said.
Opposition parties including the Congress, Trinamool Congress, NCP, SP, National Conference and DMK staged a walkout, demanding a rollback of the hike in petrol and diesel prices effected by the Budget. Sitharaman did not mention the subject in her reply.
Following the decision, petrol prices went up by a minimum of Rs 2.40 per litre and diesel by a minimum of Rs 2.36 per litre. The Budget had proposed to raise excise duty and road and infrastructure cess on petrol and diesel by Rs 2 per litre each to raise Rs 24,000-28,000 crore on an annual basis.
Sitharaman said several steps including enhancing investments in infrastructure, liberalisation in the foreign direct investment policy and lowering of corporate tax are being taken to make India a $5-trillion economy by 2024-25 as stated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “The Budget lays a roadmap to spend Rs 100 lakh crore on infrastructure in the next five years,” she said.
She said that with increased outlays for schemes like NREGA, PM Awas Yojana, PM Gram Sadak Yojana and the Jalshakti programme of “har ghar jal”, the government has focused on rural India and farmers while chalking out a plan for economic development.
“The Opposition parties were rejected by the people in the election because in 2014-15, when we came to power, inflation was 5.9 per cent, whereas now it is 3 per cent. Food inflation was 6.4 per cent then while now it was 0.3 per cent in March,” she said.
During her reply, the Opposition protested when, explaining the logic behind different GDP numbers in the Budget, the Interim Budget and the Economic Survey, Sitharaman said that she had tried to explain it like a “teacher”.
“Even if I am mocked at, sometimes I spoke like a teacher to a class of students… And even if that is not sufficient, I am quite happy to receive Members at Room Number 36 with due respect,” she said.
Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury was heard saying “We are not students. We are elected members of this House,” Speaker Om Birla intervened and assured the Opposition that he would look into the speech and decide if any remark needs to be expunged.
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