As RS discusses Budget, Chidambaram poses 12 questions to Jaitley

RSTV Bureau
New Delhi: Congress leader P Chidambaram in the Rajya Sabha. PTI/RSTV

New Delhi: Congress leader P Chidambaram in the Rajya Sabha.

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Thursday criticised the government over general budget insisting it would ramp up fiscal deficit. He also questioned the economic policies of Modi government saying it has performed below par on the front of job creation.

Initiating the discussion on Budget in Rajya Sabha, the former finance minister sought answers on his 12 questions, ranging from macro economic situation to price rise and fiscal deficit.

“Budget 2018-19 has made the fiscal deficit worse… 3.5 per cent against 3.2 per cent in 2017-18 and 3.3 per cent against 3.0 per cent in 2018-19. What are the estimates of the Current Account Deficit for 2017-18 and 2018-19?” he sought to know.

Chidambaram spoke amid noisy protest by the BJP MPs, who were seeking apology of Congress party for creating ruckus all through Prime Minister Modi’s speech in Lok Sabha on Motion of Thanks on Wednesday.

Every deficit has breached the target set by the government, the former FM said, adding whether the impact of these high deficits be inflationary as currently the WPI (Wholesale Price Index) is 3.6 per cent and CPI (Consumer Price Index) 5.2 per cent.

What are the estimates of average WPI and average CPI for 2017-18 and 2018-19, he asked. “The yield on 10-year treasury bond on 31 January 2018 was 7.43 per cent and it stood yesterday at 7.57 per cent. Is this a signal that interest rates will rise across all debt instruments? Will the rise in interest rates be inflationary?” he said.

Chidambaram said if the price of crude oil rises to USD 70 or 75 per barrel, how will it impact the government budget estimates, especially the deficits.

“Will you raise the retail prices of petrol and diesel or will you cut the central excise duties on petrol and diesel?” the senior Congress leader said.

“The total expenditure in 2017-18 increased by Rs 71,000 crore, but revenue expenditure increased by Rs 1,07,371 crore and is this not evidence of a spendthrift government that has abandoned all norms of fiscal prudence.”

On the issue of job creation, he criticised government saying, “Before you assumed office, you promised 2 crore jobs a year. The ILO (International Labour Organisation) describes a proper job as employment that is certain, regular and reasonably secure. What is your definition of a job? How many ILO-described jobs were created in the four years of your government?”

The former finance minister said the GST came into effect on 1 July, 2017 and the GST revenue collection for 2017-18 is estimated at Rs 4,44,631 crore. He sought to know if the collection was for 8 months (excluding March 2018) or for 9 months or for 11 months, as the government has been repeatedly saying.

“For 2018-19, you have projected the following growth rates: Corporation tax :- 10.15 per cent; Income tax :- 19.88 per cent; GST a whopping 67.31 per cent. Is there a philosophy of taxation that you wish to share with the people of India?” he said.

(With inputs from PTI)