HOURS AFTER Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced measures to boost exports and a Rs 20,000 crore stress fund for the real estate sector in an attempt to revive a slowing economy, the Congress said the steps announced by the government are “cosmetic” and “piecemeal” and stated that the finance minister was “clueless” in dealing with the economic slowdown.
“The steps announced today will not revive the Indian economy. They are purely cosmetic, piecemeal and also convey the arrogance of the government and its indifference to the seriousness of the situation. After the earlier announcements, the situation has deteriorated. These measures are not going to help,” senior Congress leader Anand Sharma told reporters.
The finance minister, he said, is “lacking in macro-economic understanding” and is “clueless as to how to deal with the gravity of the crisis.”
“A comprehensive package for economic revival was expected. Infusion of capital, not merely small interest subventions…but a major public investment. The government is unable to do so because it does not have money,” he said, adding that the shortfall in tax collection appears to be more serious than last year.
“The annual tax collection target for this financial year is Rs 24.6 lakh crore….in the first four months the collection is Rs 5.4 lakh crore….so you can extrapolate the number. It is a staggering shortfall,” he said.
Referring to the nationwide raid against GST violators, Sharma said “If that can revive the economic and business sentiment, I leave it your wisdom to evaluate.” He said the finance minister’s claim that inflation is under control is also meaningless in today’s crisis.
“Let inflation rise, but let the economy be revived. Let investment take place. Let the money be released….let the factories start producing and our people find employment again,” he said.
Referring to the special FTA utilisation mission announced by the finance minister, Sharma said the government had been critical of the trade agreements for the first few years and said it had not signed a “even a single bilateral investment or trade agreement….with any country.”
He said the government should expand its FTAs and “tell the investing community globally and our partners that the scare it created by putting on hold or threatening to scrap all investment promotion agreements…they will honour it or negotiate whatever better terms….there is no room for any statements which are meaningless, which create confusion and actually push away potential investors and trade partners,” he said.