(Piyush Goyal is a member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha and national treasurer of Bharatiya Janata Party)
The Vote on Account presented on Monday was disappointing to say the least. The Finance Minister P Chidambaram attempted to play with numbers to make his government look good, despite the monumental inefficiency, malafide intent and gross incompetence of his government. I am immensely relieved that this will be the last budget of this inept Congress government.
The Finance Minister has made it a predictable game of statistical deception by rolling over expenses of the current year to the next fiscal, projecting fanciful revenue receipt numbers, cutting capital expenditure, yet continuing to overshoot non-plan expenditure.
Since the Congress’ policies have brought the economy to a grinding halt, thanks to its ill-conceived policies, the only way to continue spending on wasteful programs solely designed for electoral benefit, was via unbridled borrowing. Total external debt has sharply risen from $260 Billion (at 45 Rs/$) to $399 Billion (at 62 Rs/$) in just under three years. The external debt on every Indian has more than doubled!
Moreover, this government is borrowing recklessly for entirely imprudent purposes. ‘Bharat pareshan hai’ with the reckless squandering away of our precious resources on the atrocious ‘Bharat Nirma’ campaign, for instance.
The nation is simply fed up of this Congress government, which has brought us into a spiral of fiscal ruin and economic degradation, culminating into an era of stagflation. They now need fresh ideas which could reignite the investment cycle, kick-start growth, facilitate rapid infrastructure build out and ensure that millions of poor are “pulled up” from the crippling poverty trap. Unfortunately, the insipid proposals in this Vote on Account show no hope of visionary policies or programs.
Narendra Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, and by all measures the front-runner to lead the next government, has outlined an alternative and transformative vision for India. He brings an unparalleled track-record of good governance and does not rely on mere rhetoric and name-calling, unlike some other aspirants who attempt to desperately remain in the media limelight.
Our aim is triple per capita income by 2025, via an era of investment-led growth that automatically creates millions of employment opportunities across skill and education levels – both in urban and rural areas. India’s infrastructure deficit in terms of roads, railways, power and ports, needs to be addressed on a fast-track basis. To illustrate, we plan to construct a “diamond quadrilateral” of bullet trains, make auctions of natural resources fully transparent and in line with internationally accepted practices and professionalize management of PSUs involved with management of such resources to obliterate any political interference.
The average Indian has been forced to deal with double-digit food inflation over several years now. Supply side woes are solely responsible for this indomitable inflation. Tinkering interest rates can have a marginal impact on inflation, if any, as has been conclusively proven now. We aim to encourage investments that ease our supply side bottlenecks such as rural roads, cold-storage and grain-warehouses, which will also help us combat inflation. Moreover, we plan to map sowing patterns of crops real-time to anticipate potential supply shortages and create a “price stabilization fund” to cushion any unforeseen spikes.
Manufacturing, that has been the bedrock of success for all economies that have rapidly developed, is in the doldrums in India. Archaic laws, high cost of capital, poor last mile connectivity, corruption and a plethora of over-regulation, which in turn breeds further corruption and policy paralysis are the primary causes for this situation. Even those companies which have managed to tackle one or more of these issues are unable to truly scale up because of lack of skilled manpower. We need a national skill development program on a mission mode, to up-skill 200 million people over the next 10 years, so that they can tap the fruits of development that will ensue once the investment cycle is reignited.
Getting access to skills will enhance their productivity and their income levels, thereby increasing their standard of living dramatically. This will help in making India a global hub of knowledge, innovation and technical expertise, across sectors. A visionary leadership is required to harness rapid technological change for positive benefit rather than allowing to become disruptive and further exacerbate economic inequality. What stops us from taking this forward on a mission mode?
Productive and sustainable job creation, along with increased and better targeted social expenditure, are the only routes to permanently beat the poverty trap and to bring our social indicators on par with developed countries. This needs concerted action, led from the top, and this will only be possible with a Narendra Modi led government whose intent is clear and experience is immense. The nation now realizes that this is indeed the only way out to salvage the current situation of despondency that our people and economy have fallen into, and we are therefore seeing an unprecedented groundswell behind him and the party. The tide of the country will begin to turn, in May 2014.