Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram today attacked the NDA government over its last full budget before the general elections, insisting it would ramp up fiscal deficit. He also assailed the Modi government over job creation. In a series of tweets, the former finance minister also said the government has projected that gross tax revenue will grow by 16.7 per cent when nominal GDP growth will be 11.5 per cent. He wanted to know whether the tax growth rate of 16.7 per cent was “realistic or ambitious or aggressive”. “Budget 2018-19 has made the fiscal deficit worse: 3.5 per cent against 3.2 per cent in 2017-18 and 3.3 per cent against 3.0 per cent in 2018-19. What are the estimates of the Current Account Deficit for 2017-18 and 2018-19?” he tweeted.
Chidambaram said every deficit has breached the target set by the government and asked whether the impact of these high deficits be inflationary as currently the WPI (Wholesale Price Index) is 3.6 per cent and CPI (Consumer Price Index) 5.2 per cent. What are the estimates of average WPI and average CPI for 2017-18 and 2018-19, he asked. “The yield on 10-year treasury bond on 31 January 2018 was 7.43 per cent and it stood yesterday at 7.57 per cent. Is this a signal that interest rates will rise across all debt instruments? Will the rise in interest rates be inflationary?” he said. Chidambaram said if the price of crude oil rises to $70 or 75 per barrel, how will it impact the government budget estimates, especially the deficits. “Will you raise the retail prices of petrol and diesel or will you cut the central excise duties on petrol and diesel?”
The senior Congress leader said the government will borrow an additional Rs 48,000 crore in 2017-18. Another Rs 37,000 crore was borrowed by the ONGC on behalf of the government. “But where did this Rs 85,000 crore go?”. “The total expenditure in 2017-18 increased by Rs 71,000 crore, but revenue expenditure increased by Rs 1,07,371 crore and is this not evidence of a spendthrift government that has abandoned all norms of fiscal prudence.” Chidambaram said the capital expenditure was budgeted in 2017-18 for Rs 3,09,801 crore and the revised estimate is Rs 2,73,445 crore — a shortfall of Rs 36,000 crore. “Which are the schemes and projects that took a hit in capital expenditure?” he asked. “Before you assumed office, you promised 2 crore jobs a year.
The ILO (International Labour Organisation) describes a proper job as employment that is certain, regular and reasonably secure. What is your definition of a job? How many ILO-described jobs were created in the four years of your government?” he said. Chidambaram said in 2017-18, the budget estimates of customs duties was Rs 2,45,000 crore and the revised estimates show a drastic fall to Rs 1,35,242 crore.
“Is there a story there that you have not yet told the country and the people?” he asked. The former finance minister said the GST came into effect on 1 July, 2017 and the GST revenue collection for 2017-18 is estimated at Rs 4,44,631 crore. He wanted to know if the collection was for 8 months (excluding March 2018) or for 9 months or for 11 months, as the government has been repeatedly saying. “For 2018-19, you have projected the following growth rates: Corporation tax :- 10.15 per cent; Income tax :- 19.88 per cent; GST a whopping 67.31 per cent. Is there a philosophy of taxation that you wish to share with the people of India?” he said.