Lok Sabha

March 17, 2015

Sugata Bose speaks during discussion on Budget (General) 2015-2016 | Transcript

Full transcript: 

Madam, I hope my good friend Jayant Sinha has told the Hon’ble Finance Minister, how much he was missed last Friday and how eagerly we have been awaiting his return from the UK. We recognise he had gone there for a historic occasion.

We cannot forget and even we are prepared to forgive what Winston Churchill had said about Mahatma Gandhi in 1931. It was a very proud moment for all Indians to see our Finance Minister standing next to the current Conservative Prime Minister of Britain as he paid tribute to the Father of our Nation, the man whom Churchill had described as a fakir and whose simple attire he had mocked, stands tall today in London’s Parliament Square.

Mr Arun Jaitley, who is yet to arrive in the House, has a charming old world quality about him. I am reminded of the 1980s whenever he pronounces on economic matters, which he invariably does with great conviction. I had spent that unfortunate decade in Thatcher’s Britain and Regan’s America. Mr Jaitley still clings to reignite dogma. believing that the tax cuts of the rich will somehow spur economic growth.

The best research in economics in the last three decades exploded that myth. The Finance Minister has issued a promissory note, regarding the lowering of the corporate tax rate from 30% to 25% and abolished the wealth tax.

My esteemed colleague Mr Saugata Roy has already pointed out that it requires no financial wizardry, to figure out his shift from direct taxes to indirect taxes is highly regressive.

I am glad that our Finance Minister has become less dogmatic in one respect namely in his tendency to fetishize the need to reduce the fiscal deficit at a fast pace. His right to have given himself more time, three years rather than two, in his effort to draw down the fiscal deficit to 3% of GDP.

The Prime Minister must have whispered in his ear, I have recently visited Japan and seeing the wonders of Abenomics which is better than Reganomic. Our economy needs the stimulus of greater public spending, particularly in social sectors to quicken the pace of growth rather than any unnecessary tightening of the fiscal belt.

I would urge the Finance Minister not to worry too much about the fiscal deficit, so long as he can bring it down below the 4% mark next year and then steadily move towards his target. Has the Finance Minister truly embraced the States as equal partners in the country’s developments, as he claimed? Despite the rhetoric about cooperative federalism, the record here is decidedly mixed. The marginal increase in the state’s share of revenue resources has come courtesy of the Finance Commission, not through the largess of this Government.

We are glad that the proceeds of the Coal Auctions will benefit the resource-rich yet poverty-stricken Easter states and there are one or two incentives tucked away in the Budget that might help attract fresh investments to the states. Yet the abolition of the Planning Commission does not board well for the future of federalism. The Chief Ministers Conclave under the aegis of the newfangled NITI Ayog can aspire to be no more than a talking shop. The key economic decisions regarding allocations are being centralised under the Finance Ministry.

I do not doubt the sincerity of the Finance Minister’s wish, for his Government to be intellectually honest. Yet, the talks about federalism and acts to centralise, speaks of humility and behaves arrogantly.

Our commitments to farmers run deep, the Finance Minister claimed in his Budget Speech. It runs so deep that the Government has railroaded the Land Acquisition Bill through the Lok Sabha that does away the need to take consent of the farmers while looting their fertile, even multicrop lands to gift away to its corporate friends.

What is Jan Dhan, Madam Speaker? The Government is proud of their Jan Dhan Yojana that has created over 12 Crore bank accounts, mostly zero balance bank accounts. Yet, feels no shame in taking away Jan Dhan, which in India’s villages mostly takes the form of small parcels of land of peasants.

Speaking on the Budget last year, I had said that our future developments has to be built on three pillars: Infrastructure, Education and Health. I commend the Finance Minister once more for committing public funds to infrastructure projects even though the funds may clogged up if the infrastructure projects are not implemented fast.

I must express my deep disappointment again at the utter neglect of education, especially school education and public health. Spending on flagship projects on education like the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has suffered severe cuts. The ritual of announcing a few new IITs, IIMs and AIIMS – like institutions will do little to achieve excellence in the field of higher education.

In the spirit of cooperative federalism, I urge the Finance Minister to support the most promising state universities.

And the fun fare over the Swachch Bharat Aviyan is masking the Government’s unwillingness to admit the public health crisis looming across the country. It should be done on a war footing.

To conclude, Madam Speaker, a Finance Minister’s Budget Speech brought cheer to a handful of billionaires in our country. Having listened to the Opposition, I hope his reply today will offer something that might warm the hearts of a billion ordinary Indians. The amirs can take care of themselves, please look after the interest of the fakirs of India.

Thank you.