The Indian economy has been transformed from a “fragile” state to one of the largest in the world, and this is the right time to commission a white paper, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told NDTV Friday evening in her first interview since presenting the 2024 Interim Budget.
In her budget speech yesterday, the Finance Minister said she planned to commission a white paper on the performance of the economy over the 10 years of the Narendra Modi government compared to the 10 of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance.
“In 2014, we took over an economy in such a bad state. There was economic paralysis and corruption… we needed a white paper then. But at the time the Prime Minister put the people first.”
“If we had brought a white paper at that time, nobody would have invested in the country looking at the fragile state of the economy,” Ms Sitharaman explained. “We took the Indian economy from ‘fragile’ to the top. This is why we are bringing in a white paper now. This is the right time.”
Ms Sitharaman’s announcement was “welcomed” by Congress leader P Chidambaram, who was the Union Finance Minister in the Manmohan Singh government from 2012 to 2014. “If a 100-page white paper comes, we will respond to that also. We are not afraid of a white paper,” he said.
Addressing reporters after the budget speech, Mr Chidambaram said he had only one condition – that the document be written by an independent body, one not affiliated with either political party (the BJP or the Congress), or government think-tank NITI Aayog, or the Ministry of Finance.
“Then let us see whose performance is better…” he told a news channel.
Meanwhile, in her interview today, Ms Sitharaman said the Modi government had focused more on empowerment in this budget than populist measures before the April/May general election. She said the absence of such measures in her budget was a nod to the confidence people have in the PM.
“We are confident because, in the last 10 years, we not only announced pro-people schemes but worked hard to execute them and make sure that every last eligible person benefitted from these policies. These beneficiaries know that we did what we promised,” Ms Sitharaman told NDTV.
On Thursday Ms Sitharaman presented the 2024 Interim Budget, in which she said the Modi government is working towards a ‘Viksit Bharat’ by 2047.
Presenting her sixth straight budget, she underlined the need to focus on four categories of people – women, the youth, farmers, and the poor – and said their needs were the “highest priority”.
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