‘Was organised loot, hit economy’

A combative former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today sought to demolish the performance of the government headed by his successor, saying Narendra Modi had neither fulfilled any promise made before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections nor recorded any remarkable achievement in his three-and-a-half years at the helm.

Addressing the trading community and media separately during his day-long visit to PM’s home turf of Gujarat ahead of the Assembly elections next month, Singh said Modi wouldn’t have committed blunders like “tax terrorism” through “badly designed and hastily implemented” Goods and Services Tax (GST) had he studied Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s teachings properly.

Singh hit out at the Modi government on multiple fronts, including demonetisation, state of economy, inflation, agricultural growth and bullet train project, saying he seriously doubted if the government would be able to achieve its economic growth targets during its existing term or even by 2022.

He blamed the slowdown in private investments on “hastily implemented” GST and the “organised loot and legalised plunder” initiated by the “historic blunder measure” of demonetisation. On the eve of the first anniversary of demonetisation, Singh called it an “ill thought-out action” and said nowhere in the world had any democracy taken such a coercive step to ruin its own economy. He said demonetisation and GST together had dealt a twin blow to the country’s economy and job market, rendering lakhs of youths unemployed. “The GST has sown deep-rooted fear of tax terrorism among the business community and at a time when the economy has slowed down affecting investments, tax terrorism has eroded the confidence to invest,” he pointed out.

The former PM said the GST as implemented by the NDA government was a lot different than what was conceived by the UPA government. “The then well-designed GST was opposed by Modi-ji as the Chief Minister, but what the present government has implemented not only contains high rates but also loopholes.” But the Modi government has refused to listen to any of Congress’ suggestions, he said.

Calling the bullet train project an “exercise in vanity,” Singh said it would neither help the people of Gujarat nor the country. The former PM said the UPA government had partnered with Japan to strengthen the existing broad gauge railway network by introducing high-speed trains “which is the need of the country” and not a bullet train only on the Ahmedabad-Mumbai sector at such a high cost.

On growth rate, the economist said it was unlikely that the Modi government would be able to achieve the target of 8 per cent. “Since 2014, the country has grown at 7.3 per cent compared to UPA’s figure of 7.8 per cent in 10 years. Even if we consider the disruptive effects of demonetisation and GST to be temporary, India under the Modi government must grow at 10.7 per cent to achieve its targeted 8 per cent growth. But for that, we need private investment, which has slowed down,” he said.

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