Millennium Post

Budget pushed ahead to hide ill-effects of demonetisation: Anand Sharma

Calling the Union Budget 2017-18 "misleading and directionless", senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Anand Sharma on Wednesday said that the government deliberately pushed ahead the budget by a month to hide the ill-effects of demonetisation.

The Union Budget was always presented on the last day of February. This year it has been presented on February 1.

"I call this budget misleading because it is based on the data of just six months. The data from the third fiscal quarter, where the ill-effects of demonetisation will be visible, is not included in it," Sharma said.

He said the data about the economy's performance in the third fiscal quarter (October-December) usually comes out by February end, and thus is included in the budget.

"The budget, and all the rosy figures the Finance Minister is showing is based on data prior to November 8, when demonetisation was announced. The estimates and projections are thus wrong," he said.

"They did not want to show the poor performance of economy post demonetisation in their budget. But figures would come out in due course," Sharma said.

He said that demonetisation gave such a jolt to the economy, especially the unorganised sector, that recovery will be "slow and painful".

"The fall in Gross Domestic Production (GDP) is much more than the one per cent being accepted by government. The fundamentals of economy are nosediving post demonetisation, investment is down and capital formation is in negative in real terms," Sharma, a former Industry and Commerce Minister, said.

"The huge informal sector has suffered a massive blow. But there is no mention of it in either the Economic Survey presented yesterday (Tuesday) or in today's budget," he said.

He said that the "sanctity" of the budget was violated by the Prime Minister on December 31 when in his address to the nation he announced all major schemes, sops etc.

"The Finance Minister only parroted what the Prime Minister had said on December 31. There was little left to be announced by the Finance Minister," Sharma said.

The Congress leader said that the budget is not likely to spur growth.

He said the budgetary allocations for the rural sector, including the MGNREGA allocation was "a forced move" by the government as there was huge distress in the rural sector post demonetisation.

He also sought to know why the budget was silent on non-performing assets (NPAs) of the banks.

"By high sounding words, they cannot change the ground realities," Sharma said.
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