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Former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Thursday accused the Narendra Modi government of “abandoning fiscal prudence” and worsening the fiscal deficit and demanded to know as to how many jobs meeting International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards were created in the last four years as against the promised two crore jobs a year. Speaking in Rajya Sabha amid din created by the treasury benches, the senior Congress leader posed 12 questions to the government. “Budget 2018-19 has made the fiscal deficit worse — 3.5 % against 3.2 % in 2017-18 and 3.3 % against 3.0 % in 2018-19.
What are the estimates of the Current Account Deficit for 2017-18 and 2018-19?” he asked, also seeking to know the estimates of average Wholesale price index (WPI) and Consumer price index (CPI) for 2017-18 and 2018-19. He pointed out that the total expenditure in 2017-18 increased by Rs 71,000 crore, but the revenue expenditure increased by Rs 1,07,371 crore. “Is this not evidence of a spendthrift government that has abandoned all norms of fiscal prudence?” he said. “Before you assumed office, you promised two crore jobs a year. The ILO 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?” said Chidambaram. He also demanded to know how would rising crude prices would impact India’s Budget estimates. “Suppose the price of crude oil rises to $70 or 75, how will it impact your 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?” he asked.
“The government will borrow an additional Rs 48,000 crore in 2017-18. Add another Rs 37,000 crore that ONGC borrowed on behalf of the government. Where did this Rs 85,000 crore go?” he said. “Capital expenditure was budgeted in 2017-18 for Rs 3,09,801 crore. 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 added.
He said that for 2018-19, the government has estimated nominal GDP growth at 11.5 %, but whether the additional one % was due to higher inflation or higher growth. “What is your estimate of real GDP growth in 2018-19?” he said, and also sought to know if interest rates will rise across all debt instruments and if the rise in interest rates be inflationary.
On the Goods and Services Tax (GST), that was rolled out from July 1 last year, Chidambaram asked if GST revenue collection for 2017-18 which is estimated at Rs 4,44,631 crore, was for eight months (excluding March 2018) or for nine months or for 11 months.