New Delhi, Dec 9 Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee Friday presented a spirited defence of the government “constantly trying to fight price rise” and said the world economic situation was also to be blamed for India’s rising inflation.
Replying to a heated debate on rising prices, Mukherjee told the Lok Sabha that while debating inflation “we are discussing not only the state of our economy but also the world economy”.
“No country today can say we are isolated. What happens in any corner of any country can convert itself into an international crisis,” the finance minister said. He cited examples of how prices of essential commodities had skyrocketed in the last two-three years.
“Today when we are discussing price rise in this parliament, in the parliament of the fourth largest economy of the world, the parliament of the 1.2 billion people, in the parliament of the country that has $1.8 trillion economy. We cannot shut our eyes to the developments of the world,” he said.
He said the government was well aware of the inflationary pressure and was keen to accelerate the growth figures also.
He admitted that overall inflation was “perilously close to double digits” but food prices have declined over the last nearly two months. He said the government was targeting to bring the overall inflation down to 5-6 percent by the end of this fiscal.
He cautioned against linking growth with inflation. “There is no link between inflation and growth. We shall have to contain inflation. We shall have to go for higher growth. Please don’t say that nothing has happened,” Mukherjee said.
“We are constantly trying fight the price rise. We have to sit together to discuss the matter of subsidy. If the government goes on to subsidize everything to everyone, how can developmental work take place,” he asked.
Had the international situation been conducive, “perhaps we would have been in a better situation and could have provided more subsidy”, the finance minister said.
He also acknowledged that the growth rate of seven percent was “not adequate” but lambasted the opposition for calling it the lowest ever.
“Seven percent growth is not adequate for the country, but if you say it is all-time low that means you don’t keep a tab on facts,” he said.
Mukherjee said the manufacturing sector would also have to grow at eight to 10 percent is very important for the overall growth scenario.
He lashed out at the opposition MPs who had on Thursday satirically asked him if he knew anything about Indian villages and the situation there. “Yesterday you asked me if I knew anything about village. I come from a village constituency. Since my childhood till my graduation days, I stayed in a village. I walked five to six kilometres to go to the high school. I am a village boy. Don’t teach me what a village means.”
He asked the opposition to work collectively with the government that “will bring in development and the big companies which earlier said ‘bye bye India, hello World’ will then say “hello India, hoodbye world’”.
The opposition parties led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Left parties were not satisfied with the reply. They staged a walkout, with Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj saying that arguments offered by the finance minister were “stale and oft-repeated and bring no relief to common man”.
Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar adjourned the house for the day amid noisy scenes.
The debate was initiated by Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Gurudas Dasgupta on Thursday and due to paucity of time Mukherjee could not reply on the same day.