New Delhi: Opposition parties in Rajya Sabha on Thursday criticised the Union Budget 2019-20 saying there is nothing in it for promoting investment and employment, but the ruling BJP asserted it is a "pro-poor and pro-farmer" budget that would boost economic growth.
Participating in the debate on the Budget, Congress leader P Chidambaram downplayed the Modi government's call of making India a USD 5 trillion economy by 2024-25, saying the economy itself doubles due to the "magic of compounding" in six to seven years and does not require a prime minister or finance minister.
"So please don't put this pie in the sky before people of the country... 5 trillion dollars is simple arithmetic," he said, adding the Budget lacks the bold reforms and structural reforms needed to take the "weak economy" on a fast growth track.
He termed Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's speech as "insipid" and said the budget does not have any steps to propel investment and savings.
Opposition leaders said the Budget should have dealt with issues like remunerative prices and debt relief which the farmers are in desperate need of and alleged it was completely silent on issues like agrarian distress, economic slowdown, industrial stagnation and joblessness "that currently afflict the economy".
Countering their criticism, BJP's Prabhat Jha said it is a "pro-poor and pro-farmer" budget and allocation for the agriculture sector has been substantially increased that will help boost the growth.
He also said the Congress won five states recently with the promise to waive of farm loans within 10 days of government formation.
"But farm loans are yet to be waived even till date and people have realised the true colours of the Congress, the result of which was seen in the Lok Sabha polls," he said.
"You commit the crime and blame us for it," he said, accusing the Congress of destroying the country's economy.
Chidambaram, however, sought to corner the finance minister, saying she did not present macro economic data, including receipts from revenue, in her Budget Speech in Lok Sabha on July 5.
He said people deserve to know broad numbers as they do not go through annexures and other Budget documents.
"There is this goal of a 5 trillion dollar economy. Good, very good. I will give you better goals. In 1990-91 India's economy was 320 billion dollars, it doubled to 618 billion dollars in 2003-04.
"Then UPA government came and from 618 billion dollars, it doubled to 1.22 trillion dollars in four years. It doubled again to 2.48 trillion dollars in September 2017. It will double to 5 trillion dollars in the next five years.
"It does not require a Prime Minister or a Finance minister. It will double. That is the magic of compounding," he said, adding that any money lender or borrower knows this.
"So please don't put this pie in the sky before people of the country saying 5 trillion dollars is equal to Chandrayan landing on the moon. 5 trillion dollars is simple arithmetic. So don't put this pie in the sky. Come down to reality.
"The economy is weak. The budget speech is insipid. The weak economy needed a bold approach. I think the prime minister has enough will and determination to take bold decisions," he said.
CPI member D Raja said the Budget failed to address "real issues" and there was nothing to improve private investments.
He opposed the government's proposed plan to privatise profitable public sector undertakings (PSUs).
He wanted to know the allocation made in the Budget for social sector, education, healthcare and MNREGA as well as for minorities and SCs/STs. The labour reform proposed in the budget are "anti-labour".
Sukhendu Sekhar Roy (TMC) said the Budget does not raise the hopes of the unemployed youth of the country nor the senior citizens.
He criticised the privatisation of railways, saying it is like the East India company and the present government was taking India behind by many decades.
"I am not a pessimist, but I speak whatever is good for the country," he noted, while taking on criticism that those opposing the Budget are "pessimists".
Roy said the Finance Minister had 'halwa' during the printing of the Budget, but noted that some 'halwa' should have been given to the common people through the Budget.
He said that total tax revenues were lower than the revised estimates.
Ravi Prakash Verma (SP) called for making villages as vibrant centres of food processing sector.
"The internal situation in the country is responsible for the current GDP and efforts should be made on how to take the country forward," he said.
He lamented that those governing the country have not been able to enhance the productivity of people and noted that the huge population is also a liability.
"It is the government's duty to enhance productivity of people. Those earning Rs 200 per day should have been able to earn Rs 2,000 per day," he said, lamenting that this has not happened even after so many years of independence.
R Vaithilingam (AIADMK) said the government needs to waive farm loans. He lauded the Budget saying it is "well- balanced".
He said the government should set up the Poompuhar port and demanded that more tourism sites be developed in Tamil Nadu.
Prasanna Acharya of Biju Janata Dal said the Budget offers both hope and despair, while noting that unemployment is high and sought to know the reasons behind it.
He questioned "curtailing"of MGNREGA funds, when there is a drought-like situation in states and called for an increase in its allocation.
He spoke about measures taken by Odisha towards welfare of farmers and suggested that Centre should coordinate with states so that schemes can be merged and both can share their burden.
Acharya said that FDI in single brand retail segment as announced in the Budget should not benefit multinational firms at the cost of local small scale industry.
Ram Chandra Prasad Singh, Janata Dal (United) supported the Budget saying it gave the vision of India for becoming a USD 5 trillion economy by 2025.
Citing the example of Bihar, he suggested the Centre extend liquor prohibition to the entire nation to coincide with the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
K Keshava Rao (Telangana Rashtra Samiti) expressed doubt over the government's optimism of reviving the economy amid a global slowdown.
He said the economy grew by just 5.8 per cent in real terms during the last quarter of 2018-19 (January-March) and claimed there is a decline in capital expenditure.
Elamaram Kareem (CPI-M) alleged that proper financial assistance has not been extended by the Centre to Kerala after it was devastated by floods.
He termed as unfortunate the Centre's refusal to allow the state to accept assistance from abroad.
He said the Budget should have dealt with issues like remunerative prices and debt relief for farmers.
He alleged that the government was exaggerating figures to portray India as a strong economy.
Chidambaram earlier said he expects the government to come back and tell "what structural reforms and what bold steps" they will take on how they will improve investment, which is the only engine available to spur India's growth to 8 per cent this year and to 10 per cent the next year.
He also rued that there was no clarity on GDP projections.
Pointing out that there was stagnation in gross fixed capital formation in the country, Chidambaram said huge investments are required for firing engines of growth.
And for investments domestic savings are pertinent.
"There is nothing in the Budget to improve domestic savings," he said.
In an apparent jibe at former finance minister Arun Jaitley, Chidambaram said Sitharaman inherited a "wobbly economy" and accused the government of waiving corporate loans worth Rs 5.55 lakh crore during the NDA-I government.
Expressing disappointment over the Budget, Elamaram Kareem (CPI-M) alleged it is completely silent on the problems of economic slowdown, agrarian distress, industrial stagnation, and joblessness that currently afflicts Indian economy.
The NSSO data, whose publication was delayed, reveals that unemployment situation in the country is "alarming", he said.
Unemployment rate stood at 6.1 per cent, with 5.3 per cent in rural areas, 7.8 per cent in urban areas, which is highest in the last 45 years, he said.
Kareem asked as to how the government plans to bring down the fiscal deficit, when the Budget states that the country's revenue deficit is expected to increase.
"Our country is going through an economic slowdown and it may worsen and end up in a recession in near future. The government is actually exaggerating the figures to portray a strong economy growing at a much faster rate compared to other economies in the world," he alleged.
Echoing similar views, Manoj Kumar Jha (RJD) said, "In 1980s as a student I had watched a horror movie 'The Friday 13th'. Budget should not be like a horror movie."
He also said that the Budget does not mean providing benefits to few corporates. It should be for middle and lower classes.
"When you omit numbers and yet you want us to call it Budget. It is every difficult," he said, adding that the government runs an "optical illusion" and has a tendency to remain in it.
Jha also demanded that the Centre grant special status to Bihar.
The government has cut expenditure in defence and many other areas, Tiruchi Siva (DMK) said, adding his party is "worried".
He sought to know that if the government can waive Rs 5.5 lakh crore of corporate loans, why it cannot waive education and farm loans.
"We are disappointed with the Budget, which offers no ray of light in a bleak future," he said.
Speaking in favour of Budget, Naresh Gujral (SAD) opposed imposition of central cess.
"I have one grouse on behalf of all regional parties. The grouse is you must stopping imposing cess."
It is against the spirit of cooperative federalism. "By putting cess, you are denying the states' right on taxes. I hope going forward the government will pay attention to this," he said.
Gujral suggested the government charge more taxes, "but not rob the states' dues which is their legitimate due."
Anil Jain (BJP), in his maiden speech, said slogans like 'garibi hatao' (eradicate poverty) were used to lure people but nothing concrete happened.
"It is for the first time that the Narendra Modi led government has not only made schemes for the poor but also implemented them in the first five-year term," he said.
"The schemes impacted peoples' life and that is why the Modi government was back in power with such a thumping majority," he said.
He said earlier there used to be unearthing of scams every 15 days, but now new schemes are launched every fortnight for welfare of the people.
Anil Desai (SS), while lauding the Budget, sought more fund allocation for Maharashtra.
He said Mumbai contributes maximum to the country's tax revenue and the Centre should compensate it accordingly.