In these postmodern times, the world has turned topsy-turvy and the moral compass has been lost. Good is regarded as bad, and vice-versa; fact-based analysis is trashed as bigotry; and virtue is seen as vice. One such virtue is fiscal prudence—at least we still view it as one. Many politicians, unfortunately, see it as a vice.
Opposition parties are slamming the Narendra Modi government for not spending more. The Rs 20-lakh crore economic package that the Prime Minister announced on May 12 and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman spelt out in the last few days, the Opposition claims, is “fraudulent” and “non-existential.”
Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said that the package just “adds up to Rs 3.22 lakh crore… It is 1.6 per cent of the GDP. It is much less than the 2 per cent of the GDP and not 10 per cent as the Prime Minister had very forcefully committed and announced.”
But, Mr. Sharma, wasn’t it Manmohan Singh, your party colleague and former prime minister, who said in 2012 that money doesn’t grow on trees? It didn’t eight years ago; it doesn’t now.
The Modi regime has done extremely well by not succumbing to the pressure that government expenditure should be increased to boost demand, pump-prime the economy, etc. Government can’t revive the economy by spending more; it can do that by letting private enterprise function with as few regulations as possible.
After dithering for six years, the government has finally decided to introduce big-bang reforms like opening up the coal sector and helping the farmer realize higher price for his produce. Instead of welcoming such path-breaking measures, the grand old party has chosen to greet them with skepticism.
The government’s decision to amend the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, and enact a Central law to afford “adequate choices to [the] farmer to sell produce at attractive price.” Liberalizers have been clamoring for legislative changes for decades. Introduced in an era when there was an acute shortage of food-grains, the EC Act has not just become anachronistic but also detrimental to the interests of agriculturists.
The amendment will do away with the stocking limits, which can be imposed only under very exceptional circumstances like national calamities and famine with surge in prices.
The proposed Central law would facilitate agriculture marketing for farmers, doing away with the middlemen and helping the former get higher prices. In implemented properly, the anti-farmer Agricultural Produce Market Committees would be done away with.
Similarly, opening up the coal and strategic sectors for private companies has the potential of attracting investment and boosting growth. Against this backdrop, senior Congress leader and former Union minister Jairam Ramesh’s remark of “fraudulent package” seems too harsh: “Bogus claims by the Prime Minister have been exposed. If ever there was a fraudulent package this is one.”
The GOP is unhappy that the government is not spending more, that it is being fiscally responsible. Virtue has become vice..