Friday, March 16, 2012

Union Budget a mixed bag: Dr. JP

Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan today described the Union Budget as a mixed bag.

In a media statement, Dr. JP said that the Union Finance Minister has tried his best to rein in fiscal deficit by expanding the service tax net and increasing the excise duty and provide some relief to individual income tax payers. His conscious thrust on boosting infrastructure especially in sectors like coal and energy, although belated, is most welcome. Similarly, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee’s announcement of a series of anti tax evasion measures, and his promise to publish a white paper on black money and introduce legislation to plug evils like money laundering and benami property acquisition will help reduce black money generation in a growing economy, although they may not help in getting back the black money Indians stashed away in other countries.

Dr. JP, however, regretted that the Union Finance Minister did not attempt to tackle ills plaguing agriculture, education, healthcare, and job creation but contended himself with making marginally higher monetary allocations. The Union Finance Minister was long on rhetoric and short on action in addressing the crisis in the agriculture sector. There is not even a passing reference to promoting self-sufficiency in edible oils, considering that India is the world’s largest importer. There is no mention of imposing even a moderate customs duty of 10% on edible oil imports as a means to boost indigenous production or promoting export of agricultural produce or encouraging value addition and constricting the supply chain. Making available more credit to farmers at a lower rate of interest is welcome but it is not a substitute for rejuvenating agriculture and the Indian economy. Farmers need better markets, value addition, price stimulus to promote investments and export promotion. None of these has been addressed by this budget.

Farm sector is in crisis. Agriculture could be our trump card with right policies. Agriculture growth will stimulate rural economy and reduce poverty. You can protect consumers only when you stimulate production, and production can be boosted only by a price advantage. You cannot promote long-term growth by harming rural India and agriculture.

Dr. JP said that Mr. Pranab Mukherjee did not display any vision or unveil initiatives to improve education and healthcare. Even as the Prime Minister talked of increasing the national allocation to healthcare from the present one percent to 2.5 percent of GDP, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee confined himself to a marginal increase in the funds for the National Rural Health Mission and ignored the massive failure in the delivery of healthcare services. Similarly, the Union Finance Minister did not take cognizance of the falling standards of education and failures in implementation of sarva siksha and madhyamika siksha abhiyans. India is ranked 73rd among the 74 countries pervade in educational outcomes. For a fast growing economy with an ambition to be a world power, our school education is an embarrassment. The Finance Minister has not shown any inclination to look at outcomes in education and to promote delivery of services and accountability.

By making a token allocation for the National Skill Development Council, the Union Finance Minister washed his hands off tackling massive unemployment among youth. Millions of young people in India are getting marginalized in a growing economy. The budget has failed to address their needs.

Dr. JP said that every political party in the country should focus on boosting economic growth, ending corruption and promoting transparency and eradicating poverty and mitigating inequalities. All political parties are in the dock in not addressing them as of now, he added.

Dr JP Said, “We cannot end poverty and promote equity by pursuing populist policies and vote bank politics. We need quantum leaps in agriculture, education, healthcare and jobs”.

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