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Government “White Paper” Accuses UPA Government of Ruining Indian Economy

Government “White Paper” Accuses UPA Government of Ruining Indian Economy

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Feb 8: Within hours of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi showered praises on his predecessor Manmohan Singh while bidding farewell to the retiring Rajya Sabha members, his government tabled in the Lok Sabha a “White Paper” on the Indian economy holding his preceding Congress government responsible for transforming the “healthy” economy it inherited from the Vajpayee government into a “non-performing” one presented to the Modi administration.

Though the paper did not mention Mr Singh by name, it made repeated mention of “weak” leadership when the UPA was in power for 10 years from 2004 to 2014 when the NDA government led by Mr Modi took over.

Rajya Sabha on Thursday bid farewell to 68 retiring MPs with Mr Modi showering praises on Mr Singh for his long-standing commitment to lead the House as well as the country. In the Lok Sabha, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman tabled the white paper on the Indian economy highlighting the crisis created during the UPA era, the efforts to correct it in the ten years of the Modi government. It concluded that the trajectory of the Indian economy had been corrected and set to grow till it reaches its destination of developed nation by 2047. The paper was then tabled in the Upper House also.

The 59-page ‘White Paper on the Indian Economy’ said when the Modi government assumed office in 2014, the economy was in a “fragile state,” public finances were in “bad shape”; there was economic mismanagement and financial indiscipline, and widespread corruption. “It was a crisis situation. The responsibility to mend the economy step by step and to put the governance systems in order was enormous,” said the paper.

The “White paper” claimed the UPA government had “inherited a healthy economy but made it non-performing in 10 years.” In an all-out attack on the Congress ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the Centre accused the UPA government, which went out of office in 2014, of leaving behind “an unenviable legacy of a structurally weaker economy and a pervasive atmosphere of despondency.”

Calling it a “lost decade”, the UPA, the Centre said, had left a trail of economic mismanagement and “short-sighted handling of the public finances… and undermining the macroeconomic foundations.” The government abandoned the principles that brought about the economic liberalisation. There was economic mismanagement and financial indiscipline, and there was widespread corruption, the Centre has said, slamming the Manmohan Singh government on a day he finished his Rajya Sabha tenure.

“In 2004, when the UPA government began its term, the economy was growing at 8 per cent (with industry and services sector growth above 7 per cent each and a resuscitating agriculture sector growth above 9 per cent in FY04) amidst a benign world economic environment,” read the White Paper. But instead of taking the reforms further and consolidating the gains, the UPA only “took credit” for the high growth brought about by the “lagged effects of the reforms of the NDA government and favourable global conditions.”

The White Paper said the average annual inflation rate between 2004 and 2014 was around 8.2% and accused the UPA of doing nothing to contain the high inflation. After pursuing policies that created a huge fiscal deficit, the UPA government borrowed heavily from outside but used the funds in an unproductive manner. Infrastructure was neglected, development programmes were mismanaged. Even the social sector schemes – which the UPA prided itself on — were laden with unspent funds, the Centre said on an issue that’s likely to draw a strong reaction from the Congress.

“Across the 14 major social and rural sector ministries, a cumulative ₹ 94,060 crore of budgeted expenditure was left unspent” over the 10 years. This, the Centre said, amounted to 6.4 per cent of the cumulative budget, compared to the 1 per cent left unspent by the NDA government over the last decade.

The UPA government, it added, had also ignored defence preparedness and health expenditure, leaving it a “pain point” for Indian households. A chunk of the White Paper was devoted to the mismanagement and scams that plagued the defence sector.  “By 2012, shortage of combat-ready equipment and ammunition was a chronic issue plaguing our forces. One would also recall the long-drawn process of procurement of fighter aircraft that never reached any conclusion. Even the decision to provide bullet-proof jackets and night vision goggles to Indian Army soldiers was kept hanging for years,” the White Paper read.

The UPA had also crash-landed when it came to drawing investment and creating ease of doing business — the issues that have become the watchword of the NDA government. “The UPA government’s policy inaction and missteps put off valuable private investment, which could have generated growth and jobs, at its own peril,” the White Paper read.

A section of the White Paper was devoted to scams the UPA government was accused of – the 2G scam and Aircel-Maxis cases in the telecom sector, coal block allocations, Commonwealth Games, Saradha chit fund, INX Media Case, the irregularities during the Commonwealth games and Augusta Westland Helicopter Scam and the Hawk Aircraft Purchase in the Defence sector.

When it took over in 2014, the Narendra Modi government “recognized
the urgent need to revamp and overhaul systems and processes”. The reforms undertaken has pushed back the country from the league of the “Fragile Five” to the ‘Top Five.” The Paper, however, added that there were “miles to go and mountains to scale before we sleep” as the destination was to make India a developed nation by 2047.

The White Paper will be discussed in parliament tomorrow, when the Congress is expected to come up with a strong rebuttal. Ahead of the White Paper, the party had presented a “Black Paper” targeting the Centre.

“The government will never say how many people got jobs. They are releasing MNREGA funds. They are discriminating against states,” the Congress president and the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said slamming the government for perpetually targeting the Congress.

“Despite being in power for 10 years, instead of talking about himself, he only criticises the Congress party. Even today he did not talk about price rise, unemployment and economic inequality,” Mr Kharge said. “‘Modi Ki Guarantee’ is only to spread LIES!” he added, citing the huge campaign undertaken by the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha elections due in summer.

 

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