Voice Of The People

Exclusive interview on Union Budget 2017 with Dr. Shashi Tharoor

Shashi Tharoor, the Congress leader, spoke to the Founder of Jan Ki Baat, Pradip Bhandari, to categorize the effects of the Union Budget. Mr Tharoor is quick to point out that the BJP has violated their own fiscal defecit target of 3% by setting it, in this year’s Budget, at 3.2%. There are a number of such contradictions present throughout the Budget presented by Arun Jaitley. To take one such example, the Skill India campaign launched by Narendra Modi exists only on paper but has seen any significant physical manifestation, neither as an increase in employability nor in skill acquisition by the youth. The 10 crore jobs that the PM had promised in his 5 year term remains unfulfilled with only 1 lakh 35 jobs created in 2014-16. The BJP Budget also claimed that agricultural sector would grow at 4.1% although it has only be able to grow at 1.3%. Moreover, as Mr Tharoor says, the UPA regime saw agriculture’s growth at 4.6% in its last year itself. The debt relief and loan waivers, proposed in the Budget, are bogus as the largest compensation to farmers was given in 2008, under the UPA. The farmers are that he spoke to did not even have enough money to buy seeds due to demonetization. Whether the BJP’s schemes are merely theoretical exercises or would be able to successfully allocate and implement, is the larger question. On the taxation reforms, Mr Tharoor said he was happy with the increased bargaining power that the middle classes would now have but he isn’t entirely convinced on the BJP’s ability to implement; “It seems to be more of a damage control exercise”. Infrastructure would also witness an increase in public spending, which Mr Tharoor approves of. In certain areas, the Budget definitely has seen an improvement that the last year’s.

The Union Budget was presented by the Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, in the Parliament. One of the most awaited budgets, it was keen on battling the image it had earned, post-demonetization, just a few months ago. It had to make space for many recent concerns, besides the usual allocations for infrastructure and developments. Opinions currently circulating the Budget are polarized, as any other issue.

Arun Jaitley’s three elements, Reform, Transform and Energize, preceded the contents of his presentation but do these qualities manifest themselves in the Union Budget? The Opposition certainly doesn’t think so. As Mr Tharoor summarizes, “A lot (of the Budget’s proposals) are in the realm of good intentions but lets see what the outcome is.”


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