Chidambaram slams Budget, terms mega healthcare scheme a 'jumla'
Congress leader P Chidambaram on Thursday slammed the Union Budget, terming the promise of Rs 5 lakh for healthcare for poor families as "a big jumla", and said there was "tokenism" on creating jobs and nothing to indicate rise in farmers income.
There was also no tax relief to the average tax payer and no measures to boost exports while expressing his disappointment about some major schemes having reduced outlays.
"It is the last full budget of this government, and I should add ‘thank god for that," the former Union Finance Minister told reporters in New Delhi.
Referring to the proposed national health protection scheme, he said it will entail huge expenditure but no money has been provided for it.
"The promise of Rs 5 lakh per family for secondary and tertiary healthcare is a big 'jumla'. The target group is 10 crore families. Assuming each family will avail of Rs 50,000 - one tenth of Rs 5 lakh - the amount required per year will be Rs 5 lakh crore," he said.
He said if the insurance companies will foot the bill, the estimated premium at Rs 5,000 to Rs 15,000 per family will require an outgo from Rs 50,000 crore to Rs 1.5 lakh crore per year. "Is the Finance Minister serious?" he asked.
The Congress leader said he did not hear any measures to boost exports. On the promise to increase the minimum support price (MSP) of crops 1.5 times, he said there were no details.
"There is nothing to indicate that farmers real income will rise. The agriculture distress will continue and deepen,"he said.
Stressing jobs were not being created, Chidambaram said that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had no new ideas and "has fallen back on tried and failed Mudra scheme".
"Jobs are not being created. Industry, especially MSMEs, create jobs. Industrial GVA (Gross Value Added) growth has declined from 9.8 per cent in 2015-16 to 6.8 per cent in 2016-17 to 2.7 per cent in 2017-18," he said.
He said all fiscal deficits have crossed the budget estimates, while there was nothing in the Budget to boost private investment.
Chidambaram said there is no tax relief to the average tax payer and only corporates with income up to Rs 250 crore get tax relief of five percent. For individuals, standard deduction is back but long term capital gains tax is also back," he said.
"For the middle class earner and saver, one cancels the other. Actually, by way of long term capital gains tax and four per cent cess, the tax payers will pay the government Rs 31,000 crore more whereas the gain through standard deduction will only be Rs 8,000 crore," he added.
"...the budget proposals should have been bold and radical. Unfortunately, they are a big let down... It is a defeatist budget."
Asked about the proposal to consolidate insurance companies, Chidambaram said he had no quarrel with that. "But let us go back to disinvestment - the ONGC purchase of HPCL is not strategic disinvestment. It is simply an accounting gimmick," he said.
Answering a question on GDP growth, he said the average growth for the whole year could be between 6.25 percent and 6.5 percent.
"From 6.5 percent in 2017-18 to jump to 7.75 percent and so on in 2018-19, given this budget, I think, is pretty much not possible."
Chidambaram said inequality was growing and added that consumer will not get any relief on petrol and diesel prices as long as the BJP-led government is in office.
He also said some major schemes that will get constant or reduced outlays were Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, National Drinking Water Mission, Swachh Bharat mission, National Health Mission, Mid-Day meal scheme, interest subsidy for short-term farm credit, north eastern investment promotion, price stabilisation fund and Gram Jyoti Yojana.
"The most disappointing part of the Budget is cut in the outlays of major schemes for 2018-19," he said, adding that Jaitley "will have much to explain" during debate on the Budget in Parliament.