Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram criticised the Budget 2019 presented by FM Piyush Goyal on February 1. Chidambaram said that if he were to give his one line comment on the Budget, he would say that it was "a Vote on Account but an Account for Votes". The former FM said that the interim FM Piyush Goyal "tested our patience by the longest Interim Budget Speech in recent memory" in a press conference. He also criticised the Budget as an election campaign speech and lashed out on the government for violating "time honoured conventions".
Chidambaram also criticised the languages used by FM Goyal in his speech. Adding that he is a strong supporter of the use of Hindi and English as official languages, Chidambaram criticised the use of both the languages together. "Those who knew only Hindi did not understand one-half of the Budget Speech and those knew only English did not understand the other half. Perhaps that was the real intention of the government: leave the people confused at least for a day. The mist that wraps this Budget will lift by tomorrow and the people will see the desperation and recklessness of the government," said Chidambaram.
Chidambaram said that the big takeaway is that the government further weakened the fiscal stability and has missed the Fiscal Deficit target for the second year in a row. He also called the cow welfare scheme, setting up of a new Department of Fisheries and the pension for unorganised sector workers "last-gasp announcements". "The question that naturally springs to one's mind is 'if these were important and necessary interventions, what was the government doing for five years?'" he added.
Calling the Farmers' Income Support Scheme to provide "a measly" Rs 6,000 per year to every small/medium farmer a desperate measure, Chidambaram said that such measures recklessly breache fiscal discipline. "The government will fund the Scheme this year entirely out of borrowed money of Rs 20,000 crore. Next year too, the Scheme will be funded entirely out of borrowed money of Rs 75,000 crore. While I welcome the support to farmers, I ask what about the non-farmer poor? What about the urban poor?" he said. Chidambaram further added that this was hardly to help the poor farmers but to help the absentee landlords.
Chidambaram said that by listening to the speech, the overall impression one got was that "the government believed its own fake statistics". He said, "None of the numbers put out by the government is true, but the government is so blinded by the dazzle of its fake numbers that it is not able to see that thousands of toilets that were constructed are unused or unusable; that there are thousands of villages and millions of homes that do not get electricity; while the homemaker has taken the first free cylinder and the stove she does not take the second or subsequent cylinder because she cannot put together a lump sum of Rs 750-900 on the day she needs the money; and the Mudra loans have only added to the accumulation of NPAs."
"The direct tax concessions were beyond the authority of the government that will lay down office in 100 days. They seem to have been added at the last hour after the Budget numbers were finalized. We will study them carefully in order to find out if they are in accord with the projections of revenue from income tax," he added.
(Edited by Anwesha Madhukalya)