Wednesday, March 1, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Budget lacklustre, says Opposition
Tribune News Service and agencies

NEW DELHI, Feb 29 — The Opposition parties today criticised the Union Budget proposals as being ‘anti-poor’ and ‘anti-farmer’ with the Congress describing it as ‘lacklusture and pedestrian’’ Budget.

“The Finance Minister has attempted to do many things but he has failed to control fiscal deficit, raise investment in basic infrastructure, invest in poverty alleviation programmes and offer anything to promote exports,’’ the Congress leader Mr Pranab Mukherjee, said at a press conference.

The former Finance Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, expressed concern over the mounting fiscal deficit as also the fall in revenue collection from estimated figure of last year’s Budget.

He said the Finance Minister had no concrete proposal to achieve estimated 6 per cent growth rate or schemes to check the decline in national savings rate or investments.

Similarly, there was nothing concrete to check the public expenditure.

The Congress said the allocation in key infrastructure areas like power, coal and oil were less in real terms as also in poverty alleviation schemes.

“This is not a Budget that will lead to elimination of unemployment nor reduction in poverty levels,” he said.

Dr Manmohan Singh said the Budget was “neither growth oriented nor would increase employment and reduce poverty” while Mr Mukherjee wondered how the government would be able to implement exemption of those above the poverty line (APL) from food subsidy.

Charging the government with adopting a “cavalier attitude” on the issue of subsidy, the two former Finance Ministers said the 15 per cent hike in urea prices would have a “serious” effect.

Dr Manmohan Singh criticised the government for not raising the outlay for petroleum and natural gas as also power ministries. The Congress deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, Mr Madhav Rao Scindia, said it was a “directionless and distressing budget”. The fiscal deficit was going out of control and there was no downsizing of the government. The disinvestment was not clear. The Congress party, who initiated the disinvestment policy, had undertaken the exercise based on its market price while the government was going in for distress sale.

The AIADMK leader, Mr Pandian, said the budget did not reflect the poor man’s aspiration. The reduction of customs duty on cellular phone would not improve the lot of the common people. The Finance Minister should have reduced the excise duty on fertilisers. The agriculture sector had not gained anything in the Budget. The task force for women was an eyewash.

The Samajwadi Party leader, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, said the allocation for defence was not adequate.It should have been Rs 82,000 crore. There was no relief for the farmers in the Budget as fertilisers would be available at a higher price.

The agriculture sector would perish. We have enough stocks of sugar and wheat but were still going in for imports. He termed it as a sellout for the country.


Stock market crashes

MUMBAI, Feb 29 (PTI) — Stocks crashed from their early highs and went roller-coaster to create a record intra-day fall of 520-points in the sensex on the Bombay Stock Exchange as the Budget proposals turned out to be a damp squib for the capital market, triggering distress selling in economy stocks.

Disheartened by the proposals that were termed as “not dynamic and dull” and lacking thrust to the economy, punters and institutional investors resorted to heavy pounding in majority of stocks leading to a sharp drop in the sensex by 293.71 points, fifth largest single-session fall, at close.

The BSE Sensitive Index opened strong at 5827.81 and rose to the day’s high of 5903.49. However, it collapsed to the low of 5383.61 reflecting the negative Budget proposals, before closing at 5446.98, a net loss of 5.12 per cent. The BSE-100 index nosedived by 181.94 points to 3293.29 from the previous close of 3475.23.

Attributing the unprecedented setback in equities to the Budget proposals not being up to market expectations, dealers said reduction in tax exemptions by 20 per cent every year in a phased manner on export earnings led to free fall in prices.

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