Jaitley's budget leaves farmers short-changed: Manmohan
28 February 2015
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's first full budget has earned faint praise from Manmohan Singh, the country's prime minister for 10 years before the landslide election victory of the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party in 2014.
Speaking to NDTV after the budget speech today, Dr Singh said that Jaitley had not made full use of a "lucky economic phase that he had inherited".
"Mr Jaitley is a very lucky finance minister. He has inherited an economy which is in reasonably good shape ... inflation is under control, not because of anything we have done, but because the international prices of petroleum and other commodities have gone down," Dr Singh, a respected economist, said.
"I had hoped that the finance minister would use this lucky phase of his inheritance to give a real big boost to stabilize the economy, strengthen the macroeconomic framework ... with all the nitpicking, the net tax revenues will increase by only Rs15,000 crore. What is 15,000 crore in a budget which runs into Rs15-16 lakh crore?" he said.
Singh said Jaitley could have done much more for fiscal consolidation and macroeconomic stabilisation. He also felt agriculture has not received the attention it needed.
"Agriculture has done extremely well under [his] UPA government, but in the last one year there have been signs of stress and strain in the agriculture economy. The budget has nothing to deal with this situation. Seventy per cent live in rural areas, their well-being has not received adequate attention," Dr Singh said.
Though various funds were being established, he said, "It is one thing to pronounce intentions but another thing to convert them into a solid action programme on the ground. My worry about the budget is it has good intentions but does not have adequate roadmap to ensure that those intentions are converted to concrete tactical realities."
As finance minister in the 1990s, Manmohan Singh is credited as the architect of India's economic reforms. Both his terms as prime minister were however hampered by lack of a clear majority in parliament, making the government dependent on the support of regional parties.
His second term in particular was mired by corruption allegations and a perception that the government had failed to check the economic downslide