Union minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday lauded his government’s performance, saying the last four years have witnessed a marked shift from the UPA’s indecisiveness and corruption to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decisive and scam-free governance that has transformed the economy from being a part of the “fragile five” to the “bright spot” on the global stage.
In a Facebook post, Jaitley termed the federal front a “failed idea” that has never given good governance and said “the political agenda for the debate this year appropriately will be ‘Modi versus an anarchist combination’”. He said the NDA’s focus during the fifth year will be on consolidation of the steps taken in the past. Jaitley is recuperating from kidney ailments and, in his absence, Piyush Goyal is the interim finance minister.
“India has transformed from being a part of the ‘fragile five’ to the ‘bright spot’ on the global economic scene. A regime of policy paralysis has been transformed into one of decisions and actions. India, which was on the verge of becoming a ‘basket case’ has today been transformed into the fastest growing major economy in the world and is likely to hold that position in the years to come,” Jaitley said.
He slammed the previous UPA government for economic mismanagement that drove up bond yields to as much as 9.12% in April 2014, and for artificial check on fiscal deficit through expenditure cuts. In contrast, the NDA has been, on an average, able to contain the yield at 6-7% with a low of 6.3% on one occasion and rarely in the range of 7% or more, that, too when global factors impacted either the currency or the crude oil prices. He stressed the NDA spent much higher amount of money in building infrastructure and attaining social goals than the UPA and that revised estimates of expenditure during the NDA years have always been higher than Budget estimates.
Jaitley said the goods and services tax, demonetisation, effective tax compliance are all steps against black money that are formalising the economy. The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code has changed the lender-creditor relationship and offered an exit route to promoters through a statutory mechanism if they can’t pay the dues.
As for productive spending, from the last year of the UPA, the infrastructure expenditure to this year has increased by 134%. The road sector programmes has witnessed a 189% jump between the last year of the UPA and the current year of the NDA government. The last year of the UPA witnessed Rs 5,15,302 crore being transferred to the states, while the proposed transfer this year is 145% higher and will be at Rs 12,62,935 crore. This is over and above what the States earn from the GST, where they have been constitutionally protected with a 14% annual increase.
Elaborating on the gains to the marginal sections of society, Jaitley said for the first time in history, the poor and the marginalised are holding bank accounts under the Jan Dhan Yojana. The MUDRA Yojana has made cheaper credit available to the weak and the marginalised. Rural infrastructure has witnessed increased infrastructure. “The Crop Insurance Scheme and the Government’s decision that farmers must get 50% above cost are steps intended to eliminating agricultural distress,” he said. The government’s allocations under schemes like MGNREGA, food security Act have been raised to substantially higher levels than the UPA. “The destiny of India’s poor will change when 40% families at the bottom of the ladder will get a treatment upto rupees five lakhs for hospitalisation at the cost of the Government scheme,” Jaitley said.
Jaitley cited macro-economic data on GDP, inflation, fiscal deficit and current account deficit to argue that the NDA government has fared much better than the previous UPA government. “The UPA’s economic management was such that even when fiscal deficits were high, expenditure cuts of over Rs 1 lakh crore were done in order to make fiscal deficit optically look slightly better. Cut in expenditure means cut in growth,” he said.