The Finance Minister has yet again presented Union Budget 2007- 2008 before the Parliament, totally devoid of creativity or innovativeness. While presenting his most boring budget the Finance Minister has once again demonstrated that he is far away from the problems of the people of his country. A government had again and again given full marks to the performance on the basis of number game of growth figures. This time once again Economic Survey pats the government for continuously accelerating economic growth, with more than 9 per cent growth in GDP in the current year. But, the government seems to be on back foot by conceding about its failure on the agriculture and stability fronts, when he talks about pluses and minuses of his government'sreport card.
Agriculture: Crocodile tears
On agricultural front though the budget speech allocates 23 paragraphs, but the Finance Minister has failed to address the problems being faced by our farming community. The Finance Minister talks about long term irrigation project, water body management, but he fails to address the most pressing problems of the farmers. The farmers today are in distress as terms of trade has moved against the agriculture as they do not get remunerative prices and their input costs are ever rising. The result is that agriculture is increasingly becoming un-remunerative. On the other hand misdirected policies and increasing influence of multinational corporations through their GM seeds is all leading to massive indebtedness of farmers and their suicides. Finance Minister seemingly is not ready to understand the real problems of farmers and therefore, there are no concrete proposals to address these problems in his budget. The Finance Minister talks about inclusive growth, including all in the growth experience. But when a sector on which more than 65 per cent of work force depends is excluded, it makes mockery of his claims.
Though, as per the claims of the Finance Minister we have exceeded in terms of targets in farm credit, it is not getting reflected in terms of improving condition of agriculture in anyway. There are some peanuts being offered by Finance Minister to the farmers in the name of a pilot program for giving fertilizer subsidy directly to the farmers and a provision of Rupees 500 crores for agricultural insurance.
Inflation: Budget fails to touch the core of the problem
By now UPA must have been able to understand the anguish of the common man from its debacle in the latest poll results from Punjab and Uttaranchal. The Economic Survey rightly points out that the major reason for inflation is unprecedented increase in money supply, which is primarily due to increase in net holding of foreign assets (NFAs) by RBI. This is all due to inflow of FDI and FII. It seems that the government is deliberately not trying to cure the core of the problem of inflation by reversing its policy to attract more and more FDI and FII. Though conceding to the general criticism of forward trading, the government has withdrawn rice and wheat from forward trading, its proposal to appoint a commission to look into the issue of forward trading amply demonstrates governments? unwillingness to bid farewell to this anti-people trading system. Though marginal, proposal to reduce tax on petrol and diesel is a welcome step.
Employment and Self-reliance
The budget fails to address the most alarming problem that is unemployment. Swadeshi Jagaran Manch firmly believes that the solution to the problem of unemployment does not lie in employment guarantee schemes. The people of this nation need respectable and sustainable employment. Sustainable employment cannot be ensured by employment guarantee schemes. It has to be achieved through local industrialization based development.
(The writer is All India Convenor, Swadeshi Jagaran Manch)