Sitharaman Defends Fuel Hike, Assures Predictable Economic Recovery In Parliament

Sitharaman Defends Fuel Hike, Assures Predictable Economic Recovery In Parliament
Image source: PTI

In response to the debate on the appropriation and finance bills in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the budget for the next fiscal will attract private investments, ensuring a predictable economic recovery in the coming years. The finance minister blamed the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict for causing a disruption in supply chains and a rise in fuel prices.

Interestingly, Russia is the world’s third-largest oil producer, while India is the third-largest consumer. The oil ban by the US, UK, and other pro-Ukraine countries has worsened the crisis, disrupting the global supply chains. Opposition members argued in the Parliament that the conflict in Europe has been raging for a long time, while the fuel prices are only rising now, and that doesn’t make sense to them. Responding to this, Sitharaman said, “The disruption and a resultant increase in the price of global oil and also disruption to supply are all happening since a couple of weeks ago and we are responding to it.”

Addressing the issues regarding private investments, Sitharaman said that the government is working towards creating an environment to revive and sustain the economy by stepping up investments. “There’s no ‘us vs them’ when it comes to the government and the private sector,” said the finance minister while highlighting investment attracting measures like the PLI scheme and PM Gatishakti.

During the Rajya Sabha session, several concerns were raised regarding inflation, to which FM Sitharaman replied, “The government is conscious of the rise in price.” She then quoted a UNCTAD report in which India continues to be amongst the top five FDI recipient countries. 

“In the seven years and nine months of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government – till December 2021 – FDI inflow into India has been $500.5 billion,” Sitharaman informed the Rajya Sabha. Furthermore, she said that despite the noise and uncertainty some are spreading by commenting that the Indian economy has a problem, the FDI inflow into India during 2020-21 was $81.72 billion, while during 2019-20 it was $74.32 billion.  

The finance minister also talked about the steps the government took to make it easy for the middle class of the country. The construction of housing units under the PM Garib Kalyan Yojana, and the statutory PF contribution, were a few schemes she quoted while delving into this issue.

The recent World Inequality Report termed India as a ‘poor and very unequal country’, where 57 percent of the wealth is held by the top 10 percent.  Adding to this, the report also highlighted that gender inequality is also on an unconventional high as compared to the regional average. While showcasing the report’s findings in Parliament, Sitharaman said that the report is ‘methodologically questionable and flawed’.

The Rajya Sabha later returned the two bills without any major changes other than some proposed by the government. It completed the two-months long parliamentary process for approval of the Union Budget for the new fiscal year starting April 1.

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