No big idea in budget but fiscal consolidation good: Chidambaram

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New Delhi, Feb 29 (IANS) Former finance minister P. Chidambaram on Monday said there was “no big idea” in the 2016-17 general budget but commended the government on the fiscal consolidation issue.

“There is no big idea in the budget. One virtue of the budget is that it has left every section of people equally disappointed. This budget is a wasted opportunity,” Chidambaram told the media here.

“I am happy that the government has spurned the advise of Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian and went in for fiscal consolidation. I take this as a vindication of the (earlier) United Progressive Alliance government’s policy on fiscal consolidation,” the senior Congress leader added.

He said ‘reform’ was a misunderstood word for the government.

“Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) had promised to reform to transform. The word ‘reform’ is a little understood but much-used word. Reform means reform of factor markets or product markets. There is little evidence of such reforms in the budget. The National Democratic Alliance has followed its own brand of budget-making, which is just housekeeping and accounting,” Chidambaram said.

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The former finance minister emphasised that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government did not pass on the benefit of plummeting oil prices to the common man to give a respite from inflation.

“The government boasts that it earned more tax revenues than it had budgeted at the beginning of the year. Did they collect more corporation tax? No. Did they collect more income tax? No.”

“What they collected more was excise duties. It is a whopping increase of Rs.54,334 crore! That amount was due to the numerous times the government increased excise duties on petrol and diesel after the budget was presented last year,” he said.

“There is lukewarm reference to the Goods and Sales Tax Bill but there is no promise of accommodating the legitimate criticism by the opposition. I am happy that the UPA schemes have been continued but the crucial problem is price. There is no major initiative in increasing productivity of crucial crops,” the Congress leader said.

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“The NDA government reneged on its promise to give cost plus 50 percent. It did worse last year by giving meagre or nil increases in the MSP,” Chidamabarm said while alleging the government was running away from its poll promise of giving a remunerative minimum support price to farmers.

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