PC gives himself a good report card
Mar 31 2014 , New Delhi
On Sunday, senior BJP leader and former finance minister Yashwant Sinha had accused Chidambaram of playing “spoiler” and “ruining” the economy. He had sought replies from the FM on several issues such as declining growth, rising inflation and a poor track record on job creation.
Chidambaram dismissed the charge and rebutted the questions as puerile.
The outgoing finance minister reeled out comparative statistics on the economic performances of the NDA and the UPA governments to assert that the economy was in a better shape under the UPA regime.
“The economy is far more stable and stronger today than what it was 20 months ago, and what we feared would happen has not happened. Going forward, I can only see spirited growth in the economy, provided the next government adheres to the 10-point agenda that I outlined in the interim budget,” he said.
“I will keep a firm hand on the wheel till the last day, and I will hand over the wheel to a firm hand,” he said.
Chidambaram then claimed that the next finance minister would not be one of Modi’s choice. Narendra Modi is the prime ministerial candidate of the opposition BJP.
Chidambaram himself has decided to stay away from electoral politics this time after 30 years.
He identified containing fiscal deficit as his single-biggest achievement since his return to the finance ministry in August 2012. “The fiscal deficit number is the best sign of economic health. We have contained it exactly as per the plan outlined when I took over in August 2012,” he said.
“Nobody talks about a downgrade anymore, the fundamentals have strengthened. Our reserves today have crossed $300 billion. We expect to add $25 billion to our forex reserves by end of today. And CAD, which was originally estimated at under $60 billion, is now likely to be much smaller. Perhaps about $35 billion,” he said.
Chidambaram said there was limited success in the inflation fight. “I am not saying we have tamed inflation, but we have moderated it.”
Wholesale price-based inflation eased to a nine-month low of 4.68 per cent, while retail inflation slowed to a 25-month low of 8.1 per cent in February.
On the charge of jobless growth, he said it was true more jobs were created during the NDA regime, but the UPA government could take credit for reducing the unemployment rate. The UPA did well in increasing enrollment in schools and colleges. There was also an increase in the number of self-employed, he said.
To a pointed question, Chidambaram said the government could consider some relaxation on gold import duty in consultation with the Reserve Bank of India. “Let RBI’s monetary policy be announced on Tuesday and we will consider whether some relaxation can be done,” he said.
On black money stashed in Switzerland, Chidambaram said, “I intend to raise it (sharing of bank information) at the G20, which will meet in Washington on April 10-11. And later, at every forum we will raise the issue that Switzerland is non-compliant with the G20 resolution that the era of bank secrecy is over.”