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February 1, 2020

The Budget has moved the Indian economy from the ICU to the ventilator: Dr Amit Mitra

The Budget has moved the Indian economy from the ICU to the ventilator: Dr Amit Mitra

Excerpts of the interview of Bengal Finance Minister Dr Amit Mitra

The Indian economy was already in the ICU. Now the Budget gas sent the economy from the ICU to the ventilator.

The Budget is anti-people, is thoughtless and has left out those at the bottom of the pyramid in every manner possible.

Before the Budget, GDP was at an 11-year-low, private consumption was at a seven-year-low, investments were at a 17-year-low, manufacturing was at a 15-year-low, agriculture was at a four-year-low. Now of these have been addressed in the Budget.

A radical reduction has taken place in the funds for agriculture, health, education and scheduled castes-scheduled tribes welfare – together constituting a reduction of 8.9 per cent.

This massive reduction in crucial sectors implies the Government of India does not have any vision about social infrastructure.

Contrast this with Bengal: government investment in agriculture has grown by nine times, in social sector by 4.5 times – this is the greatness of Mamata Banerjee’s vision, of taking those at the bottom at the pyramid and placing them in the centre-stream of the economy.

Shockingly, in this Budget, the allocation for MGNREGA, or 100 Days’ Work, has been reduced. Contrast this with Bengal: it is number one in 100 Days’ Work in the country – highest number of days, highest allocation of work.

The allocation for the National Health Mission has also been reduced – by one per cent. This was never seen before.

In this Budget, there was no mention of giving employment to the unemployed; it is as if the unemployed don’t exist. Instead, what was seen was privatisation – of the Railways and the LIC, the LIC into which all of us common people have invested. And LIC has been put into the ICU already – it’s non-performing assets (NPA) amount to Rs 30,000 crore. The Budget has taken an institution that all should be supporting, that was already in the ICU and moved it into the privatisation mode for it to be eaten.

Now comes the question of tax reduction for the middle class. What is shocking is this tax reduction is nothing but a bluff – given with one hand and taken away more with the other. The standard deduction of Rs 50,000 won’t be applicable any more, if one opts for it. The deduction on small savings (PPF, NSC) is no longer there, so is the deduction on life insurance and medical insurance, and on contribution into the new pension scheme of Rs 50,000.

Another doing away with tax deduction with serious implications for ordinary people is the one on loans for affordable housing; at least the interest was tax deductible – not any more. This will have a very serious effect on the housing industry which in turn will have consequences on agricultural income spending because the common workers of the housing industry come from rural areas. They will not come any more.

So what is the entirety of the Budget? On the one hand, there is reduction in spending on social infrastructure, agriculture, health, education, and on the other, you are giving the sop of tax reduction, through which, though, shamelessly taking away much more than giving.

And finally, there is all this talk of PPP (public-private partnership) and privatisation, when many such similar ideas have not worked before.

On the behalf of Trinamool, I want to say this is a Budget that is thoughtless, visionless, as there is no long-term thinking, and in a way, has failed the Indian economy, has let go of the opportunity of pulling the latter out of the gloom and doom. Here was an opportunity lost. The bus has been missed, and the cost will be paid by the common people of India. What a shame! God save India from the hands of those with no vision, no strategy; only words, two-and-a-half hours of speaking on the Budget but ultimately empty words, as an empty vessel that keeps clanging.

Watch the interview here.