State of Indian economy extremely concerning, says P Chidambaram

Congress leader P Chidambaram on Saturday expressed “extreme concern” on the state of the country’s economy, saying that a slower rate of growth has been the hallmark of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government.

Chidambaram made the remarks at a press conference in Udaipur, where the Congress is currently holding a chintan shivir, or introspection meeting. Chidambaram, a former Union finance minister, is heading a panel on economic affairs at the meet.

The Congress leader said that the country’s post-pandemic economic recovery has been indifferent and faulty.

“The growth estimates for 2022-23 have been lowered from time to time in the last five months,” he said. “Inflation has risen to unexpected levels and threatens to rise further.”

Government data showed that India’s wholesale inflation rate rose to 14.55% in March from 13.11% in February. The figure has remained in double digits since April last year. Meanwhile, retail inflation rose to 7.79% in April, which was the highest level in eight years.

Chidambaram on Saturday alleged that the Union government was fueling higher rates of inflation through high taxes on petrol and diesel, and high Goods and Services Tax rates.

The Congress leader also said that labour force participation was at a “historic low” of 40.38%. “The job situation has never been worse,” he said.

The former finance minister said that a Congress-led government had brought in a new era of economic liberalisation in 1991 and that the country reaped enormous benefits due to it.

“After 30 years, it is felt that taking into account global and domestic developments, it is necessary to contemplate a reset of economic policies,” he said.

Chidambaram said that a reset would need to look into questions of rising inequality, extreme poverty among the bottom 10% of the country’s population and India’s rank in the global hunger index 2021, which is 101 out of 116 countries.

The Congress leader alleged that the GST regime introduced in 2017 was “poorly drafted and unfairly implemented”, and the consequences are there for everyone to see.

“The states’ fiscal position is fragile as never before and needs urgent remedial measures,” he said.

The Congress’ chintan shivir began on Friday, and will end on Sunday. At the end of the meet, the party is slated to present its conclusion on steps that need to be taken in the form of a declaration, according to PTI.

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