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PRESS STATEMENT ISSUED BY SHRI P CHIDAMBARAM, MP & MEMBER CWC

The budget session of Parliament will come to a close tomorrow.

The budget session is mainly to transact the financial business of the government. It is marked by three major events: (1) The Budget; (2) The Appropriation Bill; and (3) The Finance Bill.

This budget session was special because there was a fourth major event -- the passage of the GST Bills.

The country expected that at the end of the budget session, thanks to the debates and the information provided by the government, there would be greater clarity about the state of the economy. Unfortunately, there is no such clarity. At the end of the session, we are no wiser than we were at the beginning of the session.

ON THE BUDGET, the Congress Party had pointed out that the best that could be said about the budget was the nation was relieved that no more harm was done to the economy. The general consensus was that it was a totally wasted opportunity. It beat the drums to a march that was not there.

ON THE APPROPRIATION BILL, we had pointed out that the priorities of the government were wrong and the allocation of funds was poor. The most affected sectors/programmes were Defence, Agriculture, MGNREGS, Fertilizer subsidy, Food subsidy and Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana. All of them will receive less funds, as a percentage of GDP, in 2017-18 than they received in 2016-17.

ON THE FINANCE BILL, it was widely criticized for including non-financial and non-money matters in the Bill in flagrant violation of historically accepted norms and conventions. The Finance Bill was passed as a Money Bill when it will be apparent to anyone familiar with Article 110 of the Constitution that it ceased to be a Money Bill upon the addition of matters falling outside Article 110. The sole purpose was to avoid a scrutiny of these matters by the Rajya Sabha. It was an assault on the Constitution of India and we hope that, sooner than later, the Courts will pronounce upon the legality of such devices.

We had also pointed to many unacceptable provisions in the Finance Bill. As examples, I may cite (i) the amendment to the Income-tax Act that the 'reason to believe' in the case of a search need not be disclosed to any person or authority and (ii) the provisions relating to electoral bonds. The first is an example of tax terrorism and the second is intended to make political funding more opaque and more partial.

ON THE GST BILLS, we had pointed out that they were imperfect Bills and no attempt was made to make them less imperfect. The Rajya Sabha could have improved the Bills, but that opportunity was denied when the government stubbornly turned down the demand that the Bills be introduced, debated and passed as non-Money Bills.

Altogether, from the point of view of understanding and assessing the state of the economy, it was an unsatisfactory session. Nevertheless, throughout the session, the Congress Party adopted an attitude of co-operation in the best traditions of democracy.

The state of the economy is poor.  Four major indicators tell the true story:

1. Between January 2015 and January 2017, gross bank credit to all industries increased by a meager Rs 7,413 crore or 0.29 per cent.

2. In the same period, the IIP increased by a mere 1.1 per cent from 189.2 to 191.3.

3. Growth of Gross Fixed Capital Formation (GFCF) was 6.11 per cent in 2015-16. In 2016-17, growth of GFCF plummeted to 0.57 per cent.

4. The actual rate of growth of the economy is moderate; and even that growth is jobless growth. According to the Labour Bureau, only 109,000 jobs were created (in eight job-intensive non-farm sectors) during the period April to September, 2016. This must be viewed against the promise to create 2 crore jobs every year.

Besides issues concerning the economy, there were many issues, social and political, that were raised in both Houses of Parliament. I am sure you have questions regarding some of those issues.

I shall stop here and take your questions on the Budget session of Parliament.

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