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Prof. Balachandran Mungekar former Vice Chancellor of Mumbai University, Member Planning Commission and Congress MP addressed the media today on the budget.

Prof. Balachandran Mungekar former Vice Chancellor of Mumbai University, Member Planning Commission and Congress MP addressed the media today on the budget.

Prof. Mungekar said he would like to make 3-4 broad observations about the interim budget.

First of all, this interim budget is consistent with UPA’s policy since it came in to power in 2004-05 of giving importance to stimulating rate of growth and making and making growth inclusive. During the last ten years it came to power, except last two year when the rate of growth was decelerated it was the highest. The second point is in order to stimulate the growth; the Finance Minister has taken care to give importance to infrastructure and taking into account the efforts of UPA-II during the last nine months of 2013-14, in terms of the generation of electricity, construction of national highway roads, construction of rural roads, expansion of port capacity, I think the economy has done well. The third point is the world economy has grown today at the rate of 3.2% or so. China’s rate of growth has declined from 9.3% to 7.5%. I think by comparing the over-all performance of the earlier years, 6.5% rate of growth would be relatively smaller but the Finance Minister for the remaining year has taken care of infrastructure, the growth will be stimulated and we may go, according to world bank survey, about 6% or 5.9% rate of growth. The next point is that making growth inclusive – if we take into account the marginalized sections of the society such as SCs, STs, women and children, sufficient allocations have been made for these sectors. We should take care of making growth inclusive, as is well known, taking into account the criterion adopted by the Planning Commission between 2004-05 and 2011-12, 140 million i.e. 14 crore people have been lifted above the poverty line notwithstanding the definition of the cut-off of the poverty line at Rs. 33/- for urban and Rs. 26/- for rural areas.

Another important point is the fiscal consideration also has been addressed in absolutely difficult situation. The current account fiscal is expected to be contained at about 45 billion dollars. The fiscal deficit is supposed to be 4.6% as compared to 4.8% as it was earlier expected. Now taking into account the domestic constraints, perhaps economy would have been much better had we cleared certain projects but still around, according to Finance Minister’s own statement, 290 projects have been cleared having the investment of around Rs. 6.6 lakh crore of rupees. The opposition parties’ argument that government suffered from the policy paralysis is absolutely unacceptable taking into account the domestic and the international constraints because, as you see, that whatever export earrings would be there that would be depending upon the growth performance of the rest of the world and the rest of the world is totally inn grip of recession which is slowly now driving to recovery. I think economy will be expected to grow at the rate of 6% or so. Now in all these considerations, I think the Finance Minister when we consider the economic constraints and taking in to account some of the projects which were earlier struck up, rehabilitation resettlement concerns have been properly addressed and I think Shri Chidambaram has done, within his constraints - domestic as well as international - commendable job and I congratulate him because this interim budget for four months April to July is consistent with the objective of the UPA i.e. growth oriented and making growth inclusive.

To a question as to why the Finance Minister did not give credit to Shri Rahul Gandhi for One Rank One Pension, Prof. Mungekar said what is important is the net result and One Rank One Pension is absolutely acceptable irrespective of the fact that budget people prepared earlier than what Congress Vice President said and I do not think there is any misunderstanding in the mind of the Congress Vice President that Finance Minister had tried to sully his suggestion. I don’t think there is a tug of war between the Finance Minister and Shri Rahul Gandhi. Both of them belong to the same political party. What is wrong if Shri Rahul Gandhi has suggested it? That is the central contention of the budget and that should be given credit. I don’t think there is any discontent between the two. Both of them are the part of the UPA government. Let us welcome it rather than reading too much in that.

To another question that Narendra Modi has said that this budget is extremely disappointing, Prof. Mungekar said what you can expect from Narendra Modi.

On the related question that it was Jaswant Singh who had gone to the Prime Minister with such request of OROP, Prof. Mungekar said we understand politics is the distribution of game, distribution of blame and also politics of distribution of credit. I don’t want to go into distribution of blame and distribution of credit game.

To a question that JD (U) has said that they give Zero marks to this budget, Prof. Mungekar said democracy is yet to be borne where the opposition parties in the history of political democracy has appreciated one good thing of ruling party.

On a question that Sita Ram Yechury of Left said the government could not collect huge amount of taxes from the corporate houses and if that was collected, the economic growth would have been different, Prof. Mungekar said to some extent I appreciate that had we not given some concessions, perhaps our investment growth would have been higher and the rate of growth would have somewhat higher. What Sita Ram Yechury is saying is not absolutely wrong. I think that while giving concessions to any section of society they must be productive from the point of view of economic growth.

On a question that there has been no growth in the manufacturing growth and which has been big burden on the government, Prof. Mungekar said I appreciate your concern. Even the Finance Minister said in his speech that relative slow growth in the manufacturing sector is a major concern because it is the sector which is having capacity of creating the jobs. Land Acquisition policy is in place now. Let us expect that in the coming years, there will be a growth in the manufacturing sector.

To another question as to how would the spokesperson rate the performance of the Prime Minister, Prof. Mungekar said I do not want to go into percentage of marks. No country in the world could find higher rate of growth without some sort of inflation. Now the inflation has also come down. India was the only economy after China which was kept immune despite the process of world financial crisis where economy was crumbling. Both the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister have done a commendable job within the constraints.

On the question whether it should be construed that the government could not arrest inflation, Prof. Mungekar said if we take the graph of inflation, we shall find that inflation continuously has been changing. Onion prices have come down considerably from Rs. 90/- per kg to Rs. 12/- per Kg. Inflation is still the concern. With the ‘rabi’ season, the food production is going to be higher and the inflation will come down. As it is now, it has come down from 13.6% to 6.5%. The low rate of growth and higher inflation is more worrisome, given the situation including the food production of 266 MTs as against 255 MTs; I think we shall be able to control the inflation to the satisfactory level.

(Tom Vadakkan)


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