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Budget 2014: No new populist scheme as UPA-II takes upcoming Lok Sabha poll test

Feb 18 2014, 13:49 IST
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Budget 2014: A decade ago, the central government’s expenditure on education and health was Rs 10,145 crore, says P. Chidambaram (AP) Budget 2014: A decade ago, the central government’s expenditure on education and health was Rs 10,145 crore, says P. Chidambaram (AP)
SummaryBudget 2014: P. Chidambaram says let history be the judge of the last 10 years

Let history be the judge of the last 10 years”, declared finance minister P. Chidambaram on Monday and rejected the perception of policy paralysis while highlighting the UPA’s achievements on the economic front over the decade. To his credit, despite an election year, he refrained from announcing new populist schemes — except a small-bore moratorium for certain education loans. He sought to give the sluggish consumption a push in the form of excise duty cuts for some capital goods and consumer durables and automobiles.

In a veiled jibe at BJP's prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi, who recently attributed his own arrival on the nation stage to "hard work" and not Harvard (where Chidambaram went to), the FM said: “And all this is the result of hard work. I may add, among other mentors, my mother and Harvard taught me the value of hard work.” He added: “Neither populism nor majoritarianism nor individualism is an alternative way of governance. Our way of governance has not come in the way of lifting 140 million people out of poverty in the last 10 years. That is the greatest achievement of the UPA governments, and we are proud of the achievement.”

Stressing that the UPA government's record on growth is “unparalleled”, the finance minister sought to back his claim with some data. Ten years ago, the country produced 213 million tonnes of grain a year and had an installed power generation capacity of 112,700 MW, but now it produces 263 million tonnes of grain and has the capacity to produce 234,600 MW of power, he said. A decade ago, the central government’s expenditure on education and health was Rs 10,145 crore and Rs 7,248 crore, respectively, and now the Centre has allocated Rs 79,451 crore and Rs 36,322 crore to these sectors, respectively, he added.

However, many analysts have rejected such a comparison saying the economy was anyway expected to grow and these are necessary preconditions for inclusive growth. Fiscal deficit, the minister said, is expected to be contained at 4.6% of the GDP in FY14, even lower than the target of 4.8%, and economic growth will recover in the second half of the current fiscal to at least 5.2% from 4.6% in the first half. The current account deficit is expected to plunge to $45 billion in 2013-14 from $88 billion a year before, he added.

The Opposition, however, isn't enthused. Senior BJP leader

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