Mar 17, 2008

Our goal is to wipe out poverty: FM -

Finance Minister P Chidambaram replies to the Budget debate in Parliament.

I am deeply grateful to my good friend, Shri Vijay Kumar Malhotra and 62 other Members, according to my count, who have participated in this debate on the Budget that I presented last Friday. 

As a number of Members have said, the Budget is not a mere statement of receipts and expenditure, though that is what the Constitution says it will be.  Over the years, the Budget and the occasion for making a Budget speech has become a vehicle through which the government  can communicate with the people of India, a report on the state of economy and what the government  will do in the following year to promote economic growth with social justice. 

That is why, the Budget speech has become an event.  From my point of view, it is too much of an event these days, thanks to the media.  Nevertheless, one must adjust one's own feelings and thoughts on the subject in order to meet the requirements of the situation. 

When I heard Shri Malhotra and certain others from the Opposition benches, for whom I have great respect, it occurred to me that they had, perhaps, forgotten that they had also been in office for six years.  I think the habit of sitting in the

Opposition is so ingrained that you have forgotten that for six years, you were in office.  If that is where you would like to sit, let me wish you well.  Continue to sit where you are.  One should, therefore, make a true and correct assessment of what the state of economy was during the six years when the NDA was in office and what the state of economy today is.

It is certainly far from my mind to claim that everything was wrong in the NDA period and everything is right under the UPA government.  That is not the purpose of my statement.  The economic progress worldwide is measured on certain terms.  If you and I speak the same language, we must accept the same grammar.

We cannot claim to speak the same language, if each one follows different grammar. The worldwide economic growth and economic progress are measured in terms of the growth in the GDP, the growth in per capita income, the improvement in human development indicators, the fiscal deficit and the revenue deficit, the external account, particularly the balance of payments and the foreign exchange reserves, the rate of savings and the rate of investment in a country, employment and whether the benefits of growth are shared by a larger and larger number every year.

Poverty has been a major stigma in this country for several thousand years.   Our common goal is to wipe out the stigma of poverty.  The starting point of the journey, where we can claim that one day, not too distant future, poverty as we have known for five thousand years, is wiped out, is growth.

As I have said many times before, and I say it with humility, with growth there is a chance for equity, there is a chance for inclusive growth.  Without growth there is no chance for equity, there is no chance for inclusive growth.  If you will measure what has been achieved in the last four years in terms which are accepted world-wide, you will find that in the six years that the NDA government  was in office, the average GDP growth was 5.9 per cent, in the four years that the UPA government  is in office, the growth is averaged 8.8 per cent.

Now, the difference between 5.9 and 8.8 is not simply a number close to three.  The difference between 5.9 and 8.8 is the difference between modest growth, which will mean that we will take many years to wipe out poverty, and spirited growth, which will help us double the per capita income every decade, wipe out poverty much sooner than we had expected.

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