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April 22, 1999
Rs 2 trillion budget, no debate, no amendments: FMs rue India's misfortune
Rediff Business Bureau in New Delhi
Although the major indices posted losses today, the overall sentiment and the undercurrent in the Indian stock and forex markets were positive, following the unprecedented passage of the Union Budget for 1999-2000 in Parliament without any debate or amendments.
Political uncertainty following the fall of the Vajpayee-led government had threatened the passage of the Budget in Parliament. Financial chaos and negation of crucial tax proposals to raise more than Rs 1.5 trillion would have ensued.
However, former finance minister Palaniappan Chidambaram (Tamil Maanila Congress), said: "It is a very sad day. Parliament has approved transactions worth Rs 2 trillion ($ 50 billion) without any discussion."
The outgoing finance minister, Yashwant Sinha (Bharatiya Janata Party), was not happy either that his Budget has stood the test of political uncertainty.
Sinha said his "first preference" remains a threadbare discussion on the "points raised by the opposition" against the Budget.
He said the economy is still not out of danger as political uncertainty continues. The passing of Budget, Sinha indicated, in no way improves the bleak economic future in the short term.
There are still no clear signs of the next government. The Vajpayee-led 17-party coalition government had resigned on April 17 after losing a vote on confidence motion 269/270.
"The economy was poised for revival and takeoff. This forced instability has been thrust upon the country and the entire process of economic revival has been pushed back. The political instability has hit the market. It is very unfortunate," an emotional Sinha said at a media conference in New Delhi after the Parliament session.
Sinha also regretted that the reforms that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government sought to push through have been adversely affected. "A lot of economic legislation is pending in Parliament. Also in jeopardy is the second generation of reforms we promised," he said.
But he clarified that the larger reforms initiated in 1991 by the Congress government are irreversible. "India as a country remains an attractive destination for foreign investment. By and large all political parties agree to reforms. I'm looking at the future optimistically," Sinha said.
Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and former finance minister Manmohan Singh (the Congress) was reportedly unhappy that crucial economic issues were being relegated to the background due to the ongoing political turmoil.
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