Sitharaman Seeks To Debunk Data Fudging Claims, Takes On Chidambaram Over Defence Budget Allocation
Nirmala Sitharaman, India’s finance minister, gestures as she speaks during a news conference in New Delhi, India. (Photographer: T. Narayan/Bloomberg)

Sitharaman Seeks To Debunk Data Fudging Claims, Takes On Chidambaram Over Defence Budget Allocation


Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday sought to debunk claims of data fudging by the government and said the government was not hiding any numbers.

"No resources have been cut down for anybody but I wish to assure all members who participated during the discussion that the government is keen to work together with everybody and we want the economy to gallop," Sitharaman said replying to a debate on the Union Budget 2020-21 in the Rajya Sabha.

Without naming Congress leader P Chidambaram, she took on the former finance minister for his remarks that the chief of defence staff should strongly protest against the reduced budget allocation for defence sector and that his party would stand in his support.

Talking about previous UPA government, Sitharaman said "the entire defence ministry was paralysed, the defence of India was paralysed, they did not have an equipment and look at the way, bullet-proof dresses were not available".

Also read: Economy Not In Trouble, Green Shoots Visible: Finance Minister

"What about Rafale? Why didn't they buy it?. So having paralysed the defence of India, it is very odd that a former minister wants the defence ministry to protest. I am shocked at the way in which governance is being treated," she said. In a marginal hike, the defence budget was increased to Rs 3.37 lakh crore for 2020-21 against last year's Rs 3.18 lakh crore, notwithstanding expectations of significantly higher allocation to fast-track long-pending military modernisation efforts.

Sitharaman had served as defence minister in the first term of the Modi government. Speaking on allegations and questions raised on the data and account fudging by the government, she highlighted that between 2005-2006 and 2010-11, every year there was the issuance of oil bonds.

She asserted that the Modi government has not fudged any accounts. "The total of oil bonds issued was Rs 1.4 lakh crore or 1.9 percent of then GDP. Even today, we are paying annually Rs 9,900 crore on these bonds as interest.

"Alright the government borrows and we have to pay interest. Understood. Government's liability on oil subsidy is something where we all have to see when we are talked down to fudging of accounts," Sitharaman explained. She said the government liability on oil subsidies was shifted to oil marketing companies during the UPA rule so that their books appear nice and they don't have too much of overload.

Between 2012 and 2013, foreign investment recorded a negative 36 percent growth, the minister said, adding, "literally FDI ran out of this country. And this is competent doctors holding the economy together". Referring to fiscal deficit data, she asserted that under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership, fiscal discipline has been maintained all through. She read out the fiscal deficit numbers between 2014-15, till Budget Expenditure 2020-21 to back her assertions.

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