Vision of Pandit Upadhyaya will reflect in next Budget:

By | October 17, 2016

First, we will implement a nationwide goods and services tax (GST) from April 1. That will be a milestone in the history of economic reform. Linked to that, the Budget will be preponed. The tradition of presenting it on the last day of February will be broken. The Budget will be dedicated to upliftment of the poor. Whatever schemes we carry out will be under ‘Antyodaya’, ensuring the government’s services and benefits reach every citizen, what we can term last-mile connectivity. It will be for the weaker sections of our society. So, are we looking more towards impl-ementation of existing schemes rather than announcement of new ones? The focus will be on implementation of existing schemes to ensure their benefits are reaching even the poorest of the poor. If there are new schemes, their focus will be Gareeb Kalyan (welfare of the poor). The first priority will be to remove implementation bottlenecks in existing schemes. We review that regularly and take constant feedback. Based on that, some schemes could be improved. The core focus will remain on upliftment of the poor. When you talk of a pro-poor Budget, it can also be taken as a pro-rural or a pro-farmer one. Could there be a massive farm loan waiver, the likes of which have happened in the past? We want to improve the economy. We don’t want populist schemes or measures which appeal to the vote bank at the cost of economic and fiscal stability. We don’t want to weaken the economy. Measures such as loan waivers are vote bank politics. I have not read any economist who says such large waivers are good for the economy. There will a pro-rural push but not at the cost of fiscal stability. When you talk of implementation, and based on the feedback you have, which schemes require fixing? Where are the gaps? There are implementation gaps in many areas. Initiatives like Direct Benefits Transfer and Aadhaar have helped fix a lot of these and helped the exchequer save money. However, more remains to be done, especially on the information technology and back-end infrastructure. With elections in five states clashing with the proposal to have an early Budget in the coming year, will the model code of conduct be an issue? The Election Commission will declare the model code of conduct ahead of the polls that begin in February. We will definitely take care of that. We will certainly implement the budget from April 1; else, there could be functional problems related to the GST rollout. Whatever constitutional requirement is there will be fully complied with. As MoS Finance, what is one big idea from your side that the Budget could focus on? We want to realise the dream and vision of Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya. While pro-poor policies will continue, the economic vision of Pt Deendayal Upadhyaya will be the focus. It will certainly reflect in the next budget. Our Indian-ness (Bhartiyata) should reflect in our policies. Pt Upadhyaya’s view was that the Indian state should neither be made capitalistic nor socialistic. Capitalism will create disparity and income inequality, while in the case of socialism there will only be public sector undertakings (PSUs), which is again not good. So, you are talking of a mix or balance of the two? No mix. Only Indianness. No mix. What is your view on disinvestment target of Rs 56,500 crore, including the strategic sale target of Rs 20,500 crore, for this financial year? What do you feel about privatisation of state-run firms? In our earlier Budget, too, we have said we will do disinvestment and strategic sale. We will ensure it does not render people jobless or unemployed. We will be speaking to the trade unions. Of the disinvestment target, Rs 21,000 crore has already come in. Actually, it is not disinvestments anymore but DIPAM (department of investment and public management, new name for the erstwhile department of disinvestment). The light of DIPAM will shine across India. With the telecom spectrum auctions failing to meet the target for the year and the 700-MHz band not receiving any bids, should the government lower the reserve price? We have achieved the target for the fiscal. The spectrum auctions went right. People said there will be no bids. The response was good. Bids will come for 700 MHz, too. Historically, a number of Competition Commission of India (CCI) orders have been overruled on procedural grounds. Industry says this is primarily due to lack of a strong judicial base in CCI. The cement industry has complained that the penalty on it is too heavy. However, this was necessary. The cost of cement came down considerably. Automobiles is also under the CCI scanner. We can’t let automobile players sell spare parts at Rs 3 crore when the actual cost of the vehicle is Rs 1 crore. This is happening in the industry. We will not let anyone undermine the CCI and the SFIO (Serious Fraud Investigation Office). We want to strengthen both organisations. CCI majorly constitutes bureaucrats. Why not bring in more people associated with the judiciary? We want people from all sectors — economic service, judiciary, everything. Compat (Competition Appellate Tribunal) has been quashing CCI orders. Isn’t CCI’s role being undermined? CCI orders are challenged and quashed on legal grounds. That doesn’t mean we will not take up cartelisation cases. Which are the grey areas that need to be investigated by CCI? Nobody is looking at the input costs, especially in the spectrum auctions. I have asked CCI to investigate any case where there is unnecessary costs added in the output, when the input cost is much lower. –[17-10-2016]

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