August 14, 2013

State of the Indian economy

Transcript | Speech in Parliament on the state of the Indian economy | August 13, 2013

Sir, one year - they say - is a long time in politics. Or eleven months is a long time in politics, but we, Sir, from the Trinamool Congress were actually walking the talk, and making our actions speak louder than
our words, because eleven months ago, we walked out of this government and left the Congress to run a minority led UPA. And it is interesting that with this subject today, we are discussing the state of the economy, because when we left the government eleven months ago, we also had some very serious issues on the state of the economy. The core issue was the price rise, especially - we will come to that later, but there were also issues of fertilizer hike, there were issues of LPG cap, petrol and diesel.

Sir, but it pains me, that even after eleven months, even after we moved out, and now more people believe what we said eleven months ago, the Congress party is still living in denial.

Sir, internationally, The Economist has an index which they call the Big Mac Index. The Big Mac Index, Sir, is an index which gives you purchasing power parity when you look at the price of a hot dog or a hamburger in different countries of the world, you get to know what the local currency is in response to the dollar.

Forget about the Big Mac Index. In India, our belief is, there is an even more important index which is called the API – which is the Aloo Pyaaz Index. This Aloo Pyaaz Index is something which this government has never understood one year ago; they do not even understand it today, Sir. The Aloo Pyaaz Index is basically price rise in agri-commodities.

Sir, two clear views here, Sir. One is, we believe, there has been a total negligence on capacity expansion; and the second one – a total lack of increased production.

Sir, for onions specifically, we understand and we appreciate that rainfall could be one of the reasons. But the second one – and the more important one, is the lack of logistics, and not anticipating the problem before it comes.

Now in case we mention something like this, the excuse is always that ‘you know, the opposition parties --- they didn’t allow Walmart…’ – we are looking for good governance. We are not looking to outsource our problems to Walmart, Sir. When it comes to anticipation, let me give you a small example of my own state.

In Bengal, in June 2012 – knowing something like this could happen, a task force was set up by the Chief Minister of West Bengal, headed by the Secretary, Agriculture, and it had people from agri, horti, vendors, retailers, together, and that is why today, Sir, in Bengal, there are still ten markets with mobile vans – where onions are available for Rs 35 to 45 today. There were still fruit markets in Bengal during Ramadan – through these same mobile vans, where fruits were available at decent prices. I am not saying that is the only solution, but the point I am trying to make is that there was some anticipation before the problem arose.

Sir, the Prime Minister keeps talking about a global economy. I am actually beginning to believe him now, because nowadays, even in the price of onions, we are paying global prices. We are paying $1.50 cents for a kg of onions. Sir, the Congress party proved again today – the erudite speaker Mr. Mani Shankar Aiyar obviously is still in denial, because he selectively quoted the growth rates of the US, and said the US is 1.4, the UK is 1.2, so we are doing very well – we are doing 4.7. But, Sir, two points here. One is, what is the base, on what base are we talking about – that these economies are growing at 1.2 and 1.4; and the second point here, Sir, is look at Indonesia – 6%. Look at Philippines. Look at Sri Lanka. Look at Vietnam.

Now the Congress party decides to keep quoting selective figures then, Sir, it really is a problem. The Finance Minister is here, and I have some pointed questions, which I hope he will address in his reply.

Sir, the LPG cap – that is one of the issues (the Trinamool Congress gave up one cabinet minister, six ministers of state). Sir, how much have you saved in terms of real rupees from the time of this LPG cap you have fixed at 12 and now 9? Sir, how much have you done for fertilizer prices, where fertiliser prices – the world knows, the biggest scam is gold plating, and now instead of being self-sufficient we are still having to pay for imported fertilizers. So my specific question is what steps have you taken in the last one year for gold plating of fertilizers?

The previous speaker spoke about gas prices, and I want to take that one further. Gas prices are going up – substantially, but what is the magic date, Sir? Please enlighten us - about April 1, 2014. Why not October? Why not November? Some people would believe that by April 1, 2014 you would not only have played  a cruel joke on the nation, but you may not also be in government – but that is another story, Sir. That is on the fertilizer prices.

Sir, I would like to take a minute to share four figures to tell you how my own state is doing. For GDP - National Average 4.96 – just four figures. Last year – National Average 4.86, Bengal 7.6. Industry growth – National Average 3.12, Bengal 6.24. Agriculture – National Average 1.79, Bengal 2.56. And the most significant one - and that is why the economies like the Philippines are growing so much, for Services – National Average 6.5, Bengal 9.48.

Sir, I want to go back to the story of the onion, because there is a lot of pride with the phrase the aam aadmi – I am quite sure that I know who the aam aadmi is, but there is a sense, and there is a belief that the Congress also knows who the aam aadmi is, but that aam admi is in the grocery shop of Khan Market. Otherwise we would not have had these figures of Re 1 to Rs 100 - you can get a meal in some state, depending upon your state of your mind, or Rs 12 rupees in Bombay, or Rs 18 somewhere else, Sir.

Sir, the Egyptians worshipped this something because it had concentric circles, Sir. The Greeks - athletes took this to eat, because they thought they would perform better. The Roman gladiators rubbed the juice from it on their muscles – Sir, I am talking about the onion. But, for the Indian housewife, it does nothing of this Sir, it only brings tears to her eyes. I want to finish, Sir, now by going back to my story about the API - which is the Aloo Pyaaz Index.

Sir, in 1998 (and before that in 1980) this Aloo Pyaaz Index benefitted the Congress Party, gave them Delhi, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. I am not an astrologer, Sir, but the people of this country - who have been cursed by this shameless minority government insisting on staying on even when they are not wanted - by 2014 or before that, Sir, on this same Aloo Pyaaz Index will send the Congress where they duly belong.

Thank you, Sir.