Arun Shourie (File photo)
In the book ‘We must have no price’ the noted Indian journalist Arun Shourie talks of how last ten years Indians have only heard great talk and seen no needful action. Mr. Shourie says that we have heard that extraordinary economic circumstances merit extraordinary measures and the then finance minister had also added that now was the time to take such measures and then proceeded to take no measures.
Shri Arun Shourie’s Book “We Must Have No Price” can be purchased from Amazon – click here and Flipkart – click here.
Mr. Shourie then adds that how the UPA government which had all along refused to recognise how serious is the crisis in which its mismanagement has pushed the country’s economy, had been awakened – by job loses across the country, plummeting production indices, by mounting defaults and the consequential pressure on banks – that the economy has been brought to an abyss.
Alike Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mr. Shourie also talks of concentrating on outcomes and not allocations. Mr. Shourie talks in the book as to how the action of making Mumbai into an International Financial Centre was completed. For the purpose Rs. 1000 crores were pledged and till July 2007 only Rs. 16 crore and 16 lakh had been released. Mr. Shourie also mentions that an inquiry from his colleague Kirit Somaya revealed that not one more paisa was released for the project and it did not figure in the coming Budget as the action had already been completed by making a power-point presentation to the then PM. Mr. Shourie says that it is only for us to decide as to how far from or as near Mumbai is from becoming an International Financial Centre.
The issues he says that India faced during the UPA Government are:
1. The UPA Government departed too far from the limits that had been prescribed in the FRBM Act, limits that were acknowledged all round to be necessary both as prudence and to maintain our credibility for investors and creditors abroad.
2. Despite warning from several commentators outside Parliament and persons like Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha and he himself inside Parliament repeatedly showing how the Budgets were underfunded and that the country would be saddled with the costs of such subterfuge UPA Government paid no heed.
3. The deficits had absolutely nothing to do with any planned Keynesian stimulus to the economy. They had arisen wholly from the profligate mismanagement from 2006-07. In turn, there were two aspects of this dereliction. To begin with, the items on which governmental funds were expended have left next to no capital assets in their wake. They were just populist heads. Furthermore, the resources that were needed to fulfil these populist commitments were grossly understated. They were understated deliberately and for a purpose: so that the Government could claim that it was adhering to its obligations under the FRBM Act.
4. The alarming deficit figures were certainly underestimated. The Business Standard had nailed how the fertilizer subsidy has been understated. The subsidy payable for 2008-09 was Rs. 1,02,000 crore but was shown to be Rs. 75,847 crore and it was shown to fall to Rs. 50,000 crore.
Mr. Shourie also talks about how reforms were left to rot at a standstill. He says that reforms does not mean that one makes the occasional speech on it. Commitment is measured by what you are prepared to stake for that objective. He also said that dereliction is in itself a crime against the country. But there has been more than dereliction: the UPA Government actively fed the bubble as it swelled, and then decreed measures that accelerated the downswing.
Mr. Shourie then mentions meeting leading figures from the market as well as leading industrialists and how they studied their first-hand reports of what was happening all round the country, and tabulated a set of recommendations. He added that the then government had no time for any dialogue and so they released them in public.
He also talks of how during one discussion in the Rajya Sabha, Yashwant Sinha drew attention to these recommendations and P Chidambaram had then said that all of the recommendations from FICCI, CII and BJP will be examined by the UPA government as and when necessary. Mr. Shourie mentions in the book that this attitude had brought the nation to the level where growth had slowed down, reforms that would ensure future growth were arrested, and the worst thing he says was that the word of India’s government was devalued.