Interim Budget gets Lok Sabha nod

The Modi government has taken several initiatives for the benefit of the poor, the farmer and the middle class in the last four-and-a-half years, and this approach has continued in the Interim Budget of 2019-20, finance minister Piyush Goyal told the Lok Sabha.

The Congress party, he argued, has betrayed the nation by opposing the government’s pro-poor and pro-farmer policies. Goyal was replying to the debate on the Interim Budget on Monday. After the discussion, the Interim Budget was passed by the house amidst a walkout by members of the Left, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress.

“The poor, farmers and the middle-class are the government’s priorities. Our government was the first to increase minimum support price (MSP) for farmers,” Goyal said in the house. The Interim Budget was presented on February 1.

Goyal criticised the Congress for opposing the government’s farmer-friendly policies while referring to the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme that promises to pay ~6,000 annual financial assistance to 12 crore poor and marginal farmers holding up to 2 hectares of land. Those living in palaces will never understand the importance of Rs 2,000 every four months and hence they try to ridicule the scheme, he said.

The scheme will be implemented retrospectively from December 1, 2018 and cost Rs 75,000 crore annually. In comparision to that the UPA government waived off only Rs 52,000 crore farm loans in its 10 years in power , he said. Goyal has proposed an outlay of ~75,000 crore for PM-Kisan in 2019-20 and ~20,000 crore for the last quarter of the current financial year.

Goyal said the Congress does not want the middle class to benefit from tax incentives announced in the budget, is against farmers getting relief, and also against small businesses and professional who have benefited over the last five years.

Speaking about a marginal rise in fiscal deficit for 2018-19 [3.4%] and 2019-20 [3.4%], Goyal said he could have managed to maintain the target by reducing expenditure by about Rs. 5,000 crore, but the prime minister advised him to present the actual picture in front of people.

The prime minister said “When the country is moving towards honesty, the budget should also be honest”, Goyal said. “During Congress’ period, what was promised in the budget was never fulfilled and the fiscal discipline was never adhered to.” As per the envisaged glide path the fiscal deficit target for 2018-19 was 3.3% and 2019-20, 3.1%.

During the discussion, Congress leader Veerappa Moily said that while the defence budget saw only a paltry increase in absolute terms, the allocation to the sector as percentage of the GDP has gone down. he also accused the government of fudging statistics and questioned its record on job creation.

The AIADMK too said the government has failed to address the unemployment problem. M Thambidurai of the party said that the Centre is also yet to release more than ~ 10,000 crore in arrears to Tamil Nadu.

First Published: Feb 12, 2019 00:11 IST

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