Mumbai, October 14: American President Harry Truman had once said, “If you can’t convince them, confuse them!” Some of the ministers in Manmohan Sing’s cabinet are following Mr. Truman’s exact words. The torch bearers are Finance minister P Chidambarm and Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar. Various statements by these two powerful ministers in the centre in past few days have created an impression that they want to confuse the ‘Aam Aadami’ over the inflation issue.
Finance Minister P Chidambaram tried to blame global economy for price rise in India while speaking at Tokyo on Saturday. But, at the same time he nearly admitted that inflation is going to stay and also professed that the economic reforms will have to be hastened to get out of this situation. While Mr. Chidambaram said this to the international community, he had promised the domestic audience last month that he would release food grains to arrest price rise. The same line was towed by his cabinet colleague Sharad Pawar few days back. Mr. Pawar had assured the global community that India has enough grain surpluses to impact the global price scenario while speaking at Bangkok. But, just prior to that he had expressed concerns over dwindled kharif crops and warned the people of possible price rise. These doubles speak of senior ministers only add agony to the frustration of common man of the country.
Expressing concern over uncertainty in global economy in Tokyo, Chidambaram said that although a major risk to global oil prices is on account of geopolitical tensions, large liquidity being injected by major advanced economies may also exert further pressure on oil prices. “This will threaten both growth and inflation in emerging market economies,” he added. The sharp rise in global food prices is another major challenge that many emerging market economies, especially those already facing inflationary pressures, may have to contend with, he said while speaking at the meeting of International Monetary Fund-World Bank annual meeting.
Back at home, in the last week of September, Chidambaram had told the media that, the Union government has decided to release 10 million tonnes of foodgrains through the Food Corporation of India in the open market. This move had been planed after food prices hit a high of 12.03 per cent in August. This was said to be the part of Chidambaram’s multi-pronged plan to simultaneously tackle the runaway inflation, an unmanageable fiscal deficit and an economic slowdown, leading to diminished public and private investment despite the growth in demand. “We expect food prices to start dropping significantly as a result of this, since we are releasing the foodgrains on a no profit, no loss basis,” he had said at that point of time. Unfortunately nothing seems to have been done on that front till now.
Just like Chidambaram, union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar tried to outline contributions by India in improving global supply at a conference organised by UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation in Bangkok about a couple of weeks back. He said, "In the past 12 months, due to record production over the years, we have already exported about 8 million tons of rice. The exports from India have not only stabilized global supplies but have helped in easing the ruling high prices to affordable levels."
In case of wheat, he said the country has become an exporter after importing huge quantities in 2006-07. India lifted the ban on non-basmati rice and wheat exports in September 2011 in view of bumper crop. "Despite an anticipated increased demand and having to maintain reserve stocks for tiding over intermittent bad crop years, since last year the country has not resorted to export ban on food grains - rice, wheat or maize," he noted. Talking about high food prices in India and South Asian region, Pawar said that much of price rise seen in this region is on account of price inflation of non cereal items where other macro economic factors have role to play.
But, just a week before this conference in Bangkok, Pawar had warned the domestic audience of probable price rise. “The deficient monsoon may result in lower production of foodgrain during kharif season by 1.68 million tonne. Production of coarse cereals, pulses and oilseeds during the kharif season is estimated to be lower than average. As per the first advance estimates of production, 117.18 MT foodgrain is likely to be produced in the kharif season of 2012-13, which might lead to increased prices,” Pawar said had warned while addressing state and Union government officials and farm scientists.
It is clear from these statements of the ministers that they are speaking differently for the different audience and delivering nothing to the common man.