He may be on sick leave and unable to attend office but that has not stopped Union Minister Arun Jaitley from actively batting for the government on the social media. He took his latest pot-shot at the opposition earlier today, tweeting that "The economy & the markets reward structural reforms, fiscal prudence, and macro-economic stability. They punish fiscal indiscipline and irresponsibility. The transformation from UPA's 'policy paralysis' to the NDA's 'fastest growing economy', conclusively demonstrates this."
This is actually the conclusion to a long Facebook post titled "The Economy and the Markets Reward Structural Reforms and Fiscal Prudence" that he posted hours ago. Apart from addressing a couple of the biggest criticisms that the Modi government is currently battling - job creation and fuel prices - Jaitley's post spells out a brighter future awaiting the country in great detail.
According to him, the 7.7 per cent economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2017-18 'firmly' established India as the fastest growing major economy in the world and the trend is "likely to continue for the next few years". While admitting that the country has seen 'two challenging quarters' on account of structural reforms like demonetisation, GST and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, he also took a dig at naysayers. "Those who predicted a two percent decline in GDP growth have been conclusively proved wrong. A 'distinguished predecessor' of mine feared that he may have to live his future in poverty. We have enabled every Indian to be a part of the world's fastest growing economy. The future looks much brighter than the past," said Jaitley, who is recuperating from a kidney transplant and is currently a minister without portfolio.
He is referring to former prime minister Manmohan Singh above, who had termed demonetisation as the Modi government's 'monumental mismanagement' back in November 2016 and said it might shave off about 2 percentage points of GDP growth. Then last year, former finance minister Yashwant Sinha had declared that the policies of the Modi government will make people poorer. "The prime minister claims that he has seen poverty from close quarters. His finance minister (Jaitley) is working over-time to make sure that all Indians also see it from equally close quarters," Sinha had said. P Chidambaram, another former finance minister, in a similar vein had claimed that the number of people below poverty line under the Modi government was higher than during the UPA regime.
Jaitley's post goes on to highlight that the structural reforms introduced by the present government and its social schemes and rural development programmes have been unprecedented. "These involve legislations which are path breaking and development works in roads, railways, housing, power, sanitation - which yield high social benefits require high level of government expenditure. This type of high government spending promotes growth. This is what we are witnessing today," he explained.
Taking the bull by the horns, he also addresses the question often thrown at the government: Where are the jobs? Modi, a vocal critic of jobless growth under the UPA regime, had made employment a key electoral promise back in 2014. Though the government has repeatedly relied on EPFO data to showcase job creation, not everyone was convinced.
So Jaitley's post focusses on booming sectors instead. "An analysis of the data released clearly shows that the construction sector is expanding by double digits. It is a job creating sector. Investment is increasing. Domestic investment is also increasing. The FDI is at an unprecedented level," he said, adding that the manufacturing sector is also expanding. That apart, the government had increased expenditure on infrastructure creation and rural projects. "The social sector schemes, more particularly the financial inclusion programmes, have created a wave of self-employment. Each one of these is a high job creating sector," he penned.
Jaitley also talks about the revenue situation, the country's improving track record in tax compliance in particular. "We have now reached 6.86 crore income tax return filers last year. The number of income tax returns post demonetisation show a 25 per cent growth. Even the corporate returns have increased by 17 per cent," he said, adding that even GST collections are now higher, all of which has helped the government keep "fiscal deficit on downward glide path".
Observing that the Modi government has "established a very strong reputation for fiscal prudence and macro-economically responsible behaviour", he also addressed Chidambaram's claims last month that the government will "cheat the people by cutting price by Rs 1 or 2 per litre of petrol" while "Bonanza to central government is Rs 25 on every litre of petrol". Referring to this suggestion by a "distinguished predecessor", Jaitley said that "He never endeavoured to do so himself. This is a 'Trap' suggestion". Taking a last swipe at the opposition, he added that it "intended to push India into an unmanageable debt - something which the UPA Government left as its legacy".
With PTI inputs