Friday, July 25, 2014

Intelligent, sharp interventions in Finance Bill debate Mindless tokenism, says Digvijay Singh of Congress in RS

New Delhi: Finance minister Arun Jaitley had an easy time during the Budget debate. The criticism was mild and ineffective. But the debate on the Finance Bill in the two Houses -- Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha -- turned out to be sharp and Jaitley was forced to sit up and take note.

First-time MP from the new state of Telangana, Kalvakuntla Kavitha, pointed out to the finance minister that his target of holding the fiscal deficit at 4.1 per cent does not tally with his tax collection projections. For a newcomer, Kavitha displayed no diffidence in taking on the finance minister speaking all through in a calm and polite tone. She said that in terms of national income India stood 11th in the world, but in terms of per capita income India was down at 123rd. She explained that this revealed the consolidation of wealth in a few hands while poverty was widespread.

She criticised the NDA-BJP government for its timidity in the Budget when it had a clear majority and it could have pushed through any measure it wanted. She taunted the government for not being being bold enough to push through GST (goods and service tax). “With such a huge mandate, we really expected and hoped that you would bring sea changes. But then you tried to play it safe,” she pronounced.

Kavitha also said that as a first-timer she might sound but she thinks that a separate railway budget, a colonial practice, should be done away with and it should be included in the general budget. She pointed out that there is need for structural reforms in the railway board if it is to be turned around.

Saugata Roy of the All India Trinamool Congress described the budget as business friendly, and pointed out that the corporate taxes were the lowest in India compared to many of the European countries. He said that the tax-GDP ration in India stood at 16.3 per cent compared to 33.8 per cent in the OECD countries and 33.2 per cent in Brazil. Again direct taxes in India as a proportion of the total tax revenue was again low at 37.7 per cent which is 57.5 per cent in South Africa and 55.8 per cent in Indonesia.

Digvijay Singh of Congress in Rajya Sabha referred to Jaitley’s pre-Budget speech that he did not want to indulge in "mindless populism", but he said that by allotting Rs 100 crore each to 28 projects and a mere Rs 500 crore for setting up of All India Institutes of Medical Science (AIIMS) and the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), the finance minister had indulged in "mindless tokenism".

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