New Delhi: Amid noisy protests by opposition party members, the 16th Lok Sabha on Monday approved the interim budget for 2019-20, its last one, setting the stage for Lok Sabha elections due by May.
On 1 February, interim finance minister Piyush Goyal had presented a populist budget, announcing an income support scheme for small and marginal farmers and giving a tax rebate to the middle class with taxable income up to ₹5 lakh per annum.
Replying to the debate in the Lok Sabha on the interim budget, Goyal rejected the opposition’s claim that he had presented a full budget. “It is not a full budget. I have not announced any new scheme for the next year. The PM-Kisan Yojana will be effective from 1 December and it is not a scheme for the next year," he said.
Congress member Shashi Tharoor had alleged in his speech that the government for the first time presented a budget with retrospective effect so that the first cheque can be sent to the farmers in time before the election. “The farm crisis is serious but this is too little, too late," he said.
Countering the allegation, Goyal said against the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) governments providing ₹52,000 crore in 10 years to farmers through farm loan waivers, the Narendra Modi government will provide them ₹7.5 trillion in 10 years.
“Some people are trying to belittle the scheme which will benefit 12.5 crore farmers. Does the Congress want to deprive the farmers?" Goyal asked.
Speaking on the government’s record of fiscal prudence, Goyal said while fiscal deficit under the UPA rose from 2.5% of GDP to 6.5% in one year, the Modi government brought it down from 4.5% of GDP to 3.4% in five years.
Goyal said he could have shown fiscal deficit at 3.3% of GDP in 2018-19 as per the budget estimate by reducing expenditure by ₹5,000 crore. “Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi wanted an honest budget. So 3.367% was rounded off as 3.4% (of GDP) for 2018-19," he added.
On the contentious angel tax, Goyal assured the Lok Sabha that startups and venture capital funds will not be harassed, though the government will take strict action against shell companies.
In his speech, Tharoor had said the government did not mention sparing startups from the angel tax in its interim budget. “People have been waiting for a break from the angel tax so that investors will actually contribute to investments in our society," he said.