Former Finance Minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram on Wednesday, 14 May, slammed the announcements made by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan economic package worth Rs 20 lakh crore, saying that it provided no relief to the poor and hungry migrant labourers in crisis.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday announced several relief measures for MSMEs including many categories of collateral-free loans, raised investment limits for micro enterprises and relief measures for taxpayers and real estate as a part of the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ package announced by PM Modi on Tuesday.

“There is nothing in what the Finance Minister said today for the lakhs of poor, hungry and devastated migrant workers who have walked and many thousands who are still walking back to their home states. It’s a cruel blow to those who toil everyday,” Chidambaram said.

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“There is also nothing by way of cash transfer to the bottom half of the population - 13 crore families who have been pushed into destitution,” he added.

“The Finance Minister announced some support measures for MSMEs, although my comment is, the measures were skewed in favour of the larger MSMEs - about 45 lakh MSMEs. I think the bulk of the 6.3 crore MSMEs were left high and dry,” Chidambaram said.

‘Devil in the Detail’

Saying that the “devil is in the detail,” Chidambaram welcomed the offer of subordinate debt (Rs 20,000 crore) and equity corpus fund (Rs 10,000 crore), but will “await the terms and conditions”.

“On the credit guarantee fund, it is not the entire fund that will actually be spent. The expenditure will be limited to the extent of NPAs in the outstanding guaranteed credit to MSMEs,” he said.

“I refrain from commenting on liquidity-related measures. Such measures do not amount to fiscal measures of support and nowhere in the world are they included or counted in a fiscal stimulus package,” he added.

P Chidambaram“Where is the rest of the Rs 16.4 lakh crore? This government is a prisoner of its own ignorance and fears. The government must spend more, but it is not willing to do so.”

Chidambaram also said that the government must borrow more, but it is not willing to do so. “The government must allow states to borrow more and spend more, but it is not willing to do so,” he said.

“Except for the modest MSME package, we are disappointed with today’s announcements,” Chidambaram said.

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