Saturday, August 31, 2013

It is politics, not economics, stupid! BJP nails PM's ineptitude, PM paints BJP as ill-tempered

New Delhi: Prime minister Manmohan Singh tried to fob off agitated Rajya Sabha members over the weakening rupee with a straight-faced and bare economic fact-sheet and rounded it with a pale Manmohanomic exhortation to get reforms going. “The easy reforms of the past have been done. We have the more difficult reforms to do such as reduction of subsidies, insurance and pension reforms, eliminating bureaucratic red tape and implementing Goods and Services Tax. These are not low hanging fruit and need political consensus.” Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley responding to the prime minister's written statement argued: “This country has survived many economic crises. But there is one fundamental difference this time: the ability of the government to handle the crisis. He (the prime minister) has emphasised the larger consensus. Political consensus has not been built on the economy. It is the government that fractures and breaks the consensus.” It was provocation enough for the prime minister. When he got up to reply after Messrs D.Raja (CPI), N.K.Singh (JD-U), Ravi Shankar Prasad (BJP), Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M), Satish Chandra Mishra (BSP) and Naresh Gujral (SAD) made their points, Manmohan Singh tore into Jaitley's remarks. He said that the principal opposition party has not reconciled itself to the electoral defeats in 2004 and 2009, and that it has been obstructing the functioning of the parliament. To show the true colours of the ill-tempered principal opposition party, he said that in no other democracy in the world that members of the principal opposition party walk into the Well of the House and shout, “PM chor hai, PM chor hai”. Citing N.K.Singh's reference to G20 meetings, “I command a certain respect, a certain status among the leaders of the Group of 20 countries”, a visibly hurt and defiant PM asserted. When he was heckled about the missing files from the coal ministry with regard to the coal allotment scam, a visibly angry PM shot back, “I am not the custodian of files in the coal ministry.” Both Jailtey and deputy leader of opposition Ravi Shankar Prasad tried to calm down the angry party members, as Manmohan Singh went on to point out the undignified and uncooperative behaviour of the BJP towards him. About the 2G spectrum scam and the coal allotment scam, Singh said, “There are institutional arrangements” to deal with questions of corruption and there is no need for parliament to be stalled. Defending the higher minimum support price (MSP) given to farmers, he said that the “farmers needed better terms of trade” and that “the structural inflation got inbuilt into the economy.” He confessed that “No central government can say that it can control all prices” and that onion prices rice and fall.” He said that the situation is not comparable to 1991 and that the foreign reserves are in a better shape and the cover for imports for seven months. He was confident that the GDP growth rate for 2013-14 would be around 5.5 per cent, up from the present 3 per cent. He promised high, stable growth in two to three years. Referring to the FIIs flows as speculative flows and described them as “short-term maximisers” and quoted his favourite John Maynard Keynes who described “speculators are useful in healthy economies as bubbles on a steady stream”. It was a not an inspiring exchange between a peeved prime minister and a sulking opposition. The opposition had no patience with his professorial explanations of the economic crisis, and the professor lost his cool when the opposition just nailed him on the economy which he thinks he knows best. The prime minister also did not like Jaitley showing up the prime minister's Achilles Heel of corruption, and he hit back in the spirit of a man hurt by the constant railing of the opposition against him. When the economy is passing through a stormy phase, the dissonance of the bickerings between the prime minister and the opposition was no less than political pell-mell.

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