Union Budget 2019: Unusually opaque and insipid, says P Chidambaram

P Chidambaram
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram termed the Budget “insipid”, and the Finance Minister's speech “unusually opaque” as it did not disclose the total revenue, the total expenditure, the fiscal deficit, the revenue deficit, the additional revenue mobilisation or the financial concessions. 

He said rarely in the past a Budget speech did not disclose the allocations to important programmes such as MGNREGA, mid-day meal scheme, health care, and to vulnerable sections. “We are shocked by this departure,” he said. 

Chidambaram, a former Union finance minister, said the Budget had taken the protectionist route to increase customs duties on a large number of goods, raised taxes on petrol and diesel, which he termed exploitative, and proposed extensive amendments to the Income Tax Act that will increase the tax and compliance burdens on the taxpayer. There is no indication in the speech that the government will enact the Direct Tax Code soon. 

Chidambaram said last year the government lost revenue of Rs 1.6 trillion, but this was not acknowledged anywhere in the budget. He said this year again the Budget estimates for a rise in the tax revenue as well as non-tax revenue, but fails to justify how these will come about. 

On the FM carrying the Budget papers in a traditional “Indian file” and not a briefcase, Chidambaram said: “Take it from me, a Congress FM in future will bring an IPad.”

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