Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday targeted Congress leader P Chidambaram for his remarks that "incompetent doctors" in the government were managing the economy. While comparing fiscal deficit and primary deficit figures during the UPA regime and during the BJP-led NDA government she said, "Harsh truths will have to be heard."
Replying to a debate on the Union Budget in Lok Sabha, Sitharaman said the fiscal deficit was 6.1% in 2008-09, 6.6% in 2009-10, 4.9% in 2010-11, 4.9% in 2012-13 and 4.5% in 2013-14. "When we talk of fiscal deficit, (we) understand the economy was managed by very competent doctors," she said.
Sitharaman had said in her Budget speech on February 1 that fiscal deficit was 3.8% in 2019-20 and had been targeted at 3.5% for 2020-21. Referring to the primary deficit, she said it had been below 1 % during the Modi government but higher during the Congress-led UPA government. "You could not come to one per cent, and could not think of coming below one per cent," said the Finance Minister.
On Monday, Chidambaram during his speech in Rajya Sabha had taken a jibe at the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government over its handling of the economy, saying "the patient is still being kept outside the ICU and being looked after by incompetent doctors." "Every competent doctor that you have appointed has left the country," the former Finance Minister had said citing the departure of ex-RBI governor Raghuram Rajan and former Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian.
Chidambaram called demonetisation of old 500 and 1,000 rupee notes as well as the hurried implementation of a "flawed" Goods and Services Tax (GST) with wrong design, rates, structure and procedure and an unprepared system as "monumental blunders" that ruined the economy. "Because of its refusal to admit mistakes, because it lives in denial, because of its predisposition, the government either does not know, or if it knows is not willing to make it clear that this is the state of the economy," he said.
"Who are your doctors?, I want to know," he said, adding the government considers Congress as an untouchable and does not think of any good about the rest of the Opposition and so doesn't consult them.
(With agency inputs)