New Delhi: Manmohan Singh on has cited two sets of figures that should make the Narendra Modi camp uncomfortable.
The former Prime Minister flatly stated that China was one of the prominent beneficiaries of the note ban and the GST chaos.
The twin blows are “a complete disaster for our economy. It has broken the back of small and medium businesses in India…. The supply chains and credit lines of our MSME (micro, small and medium enterprises) sector and industrial clusters have been greatly affected, hampering production…. Overall, as our domestic sector is not able to cope with demand, China is benefiting from this situation,” Singh told a gathering in Ahmedabad on Tuesday.
“In the first half of financial year 2016-17, India’s imports from China stood at Rs 1.96 lakh crore. During the same period in financial year 2017-18, the imports from China increased to Rs 2.41 lakh crore. This unprecedented increase of imports by more than Rs 45,000 crore, which is a 23 per cent increase in a year, can be attributed largely to demonetisation and GST. These twin blows damaged India’s MSME sector and our businesses had to turn to Chinese imports at the cost of Indian jobs,” he added.
On Modi’s plan to make India a “developed nation” and double the income of farmers over the next five years, Singh told a news conference later: “India’s per capita income is $5,000 now. Per capita income in developed countries is $25,000. India’s GDP will have to grow by 35 per cent over the next five years.”
Asserting that he would be the happiest person if Modi managed to do that, Singh said: “India was growing at 7.8 per cent but the demonetisation hit hard and growth now is 5.7 per cent. Even if growth picks up, the average growth will be 7.1 per cent by 2019. I don’t see any programme to achieve the 35 per cent growth. There are attractive slogans like Start-up India, Skill India but they are not backed by sound policy.”
On agriculture, the former Prime Minister said: “The current growth rate is 1.8 per cent. To double farmers’ income, a growth rate of 14 per cent is required.”
Singh expressed “anguish” at Modi’s charge that nothing happened in the last 70 years till he became the Prime Minister and that Congress leaders always hated Gujaratis. “I wish the Prime Minister finds a more dignified way of impressing crowds for seeking votes without resorting to denigrating the past,” Singh said.
He recalled that Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel were Congress leaders from Gujarat and every government, including non-Congress governments, had contributed to the nation-building process.
“Modiji says nothing happened in 70 years,” Singh said before reeling off figures to counter that claim. “India’s life expectancy was 31 years at the time of independence and now it is 71 years. Literacy was 18 per cent and now it is 76 per cent. We have become self-sufficient in food and exporting.”