India needs intensive action on economy, not policy paralysis: Sitharaman takes dig at Congress

Stressing that PM Narendra Modi has set a target for "Viksit Bharat 2047", she said development doesn't happen by default or without effort.


Published Apr 23, 2024 | 11:37 AMUpdatedApr 23, 2024 | 11:37 AM

Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday, 22 April, criticised the previous UPA government and said India needs political stability, clear vision and intensive action on the economy, or the country runs the risk of having another “five years” of “red-tapism”, “corruption” and “policy paralysis”.

Stressing that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set a target for “Viksit Bharat 2047”, she said development doesn’t happen by default or without effort.

Addressing an event organised by the Institute of Company Secretaries of India – Bengaluru Chapter, Sitharaman said, “It is a sea change between what we inherited in 2013-14 and 2024…where we have reached today. Development doesn’t happen by default…development does not happen without effort.”

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Comparing with UPA government 

Drawing comparisons, she said when the Vajpayee-led government was voted out in 2004, the economy had registered more than 8 percent full year growth in 2003-2004, average inflation for the fiscal year 2004 was under 4 percent. Gross NPAs (Non-Performing Assets) and public sector banks had become half of what it was five years before that.

Focus on capital expenditure and infrastructure expenditure meant roads were laid connecting all the rural areas of India, and foreign Exchange reserves were healthy— “they were good enough to take care of 17 months of imports and this is till the end of March 2004,” she said.

“What Prime Minister Modi inherited in 2014 was a GDP growth less than 5 percent for two consecutive years 2012-13 and 2013-14. India averaged double-digit inflation from 2009 to 2014. Corporate investments slumped; inspector Raj, red tapism, tax terrorism were all the ingredients to what became a fragile five economy. Investment and infrastructure had collapsed so much due to the policy paralysis,” she claimed.

“Capital expenditure as a percentage of total expenditure…had fallen to 16 percent in 2013-14 from 31 per cent in 2003-2004. Pace of highway construction fell to a third while the Vajpayee-led NDA government had added 24,000 km of National Highways in five years— an average of about 4,800 km per year.”

“UPA added only about 16,000 km in 10 years. Indiscriminate lending by banks had resulted in a huge NPA crisis when Prime Minister Modi took over in 2014. It didn’t just affect banks, the company’s balance sheets were also in severe distress,” she claimed.

Attack on UPA

Targting the previous UPA government, the finance minister alleged that “pervasive corruption and scams had hollowed out the exchequer and brought ‘disrepute’ as well as distress in governance mechanisms. Fiscal and revenue deficits were spiralling out of control. Foreign exchange reserves had plunged and there was a fear that we might reach the pre-1991 situation. So that was 10 years of UPA rule,” she claimed.

“Yeah you are now fifth from 10th, and you automatically reach the third, so what is the need for a Prime Minister like Modi is the narrative the opposition wants to set. I completely like to destroy that narrative,” she said.

“In those 10 years, India went backwards,” she claimed, calling it a “dark decade”. “Today we are the 5th largest economy, and with confidence we are able to say we might reach the third (position) within the next few years. We need political stability, we need clear vision, we need intensive action in every aspect of the economy or else we run the risk of having another five years of red tapism, corruption, policy paralysis,” she alleged.

She further said, “We are blessed with with a leadership which understands that nation is important, not my family, not my dynasty, not my party.”

Nurturing India’s economy is what PM Modi has put on top of the agenda, Sitharaman said, adding, “We need to support him, we need to support the government… We have to take it up with complete transparency, without corruption…,” she added.

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