Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu calls for a wider debate on freebies

New Delhi : Stating that the resource base and their best use separates the developing economies from the developed, Vice President of India and Rajya Sabha Chairman  M. Venkaiah Naidu today called for a wider debate on the ‘freebies’ being doled out to ensure the most effective utilization of the scarce resources in the country. He called for harmonizing the expenditure on freebies under welfare obligations of the governments with developmental needs and urged the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Parliament to examine this aspect to enable wider public discussion.

Naidu stressed on the need for wise, faithful and economical utilization of the monies granted by the Parliament to ensure that every rupee is spent for realizing the stated socio-economic outcomes, while speaking on the occasion of 100 years of PAC in New Delhi today.  He said that PAC, the oldest and mother of all the Parliamentary committees is mandated with ensuring such efficient utilization of resources.

Referring to the context of rising expenditure on freebies, Shri Naidu said; “We are all alive to the present scenario of various Governments indulging in doling out freebies for obvious reasons. While ensuring the welfare and social security of the needy people is an important obligation of the Governments, it is time that there is a wider debate on harmonizing the welfare and development objectives. Expenditures must be carefully balanced so that both the short-term and long-term development objectives get equal attention. Since PAC has to examine the effectiveness of resource use in terms of socio-economic outcomes, it may be in order for the Committee to examine the issue of balancing these two objectives for wider consideration”.

Shri Naidu noted that though the PAC examines the expenditure already incurred, it’s reports, observations and recommendations are further amplified by the Members of Parliament raising Questions and debates based on them and media reporting on the same. Besides, PAC’s constant pursuit of action taken by the Government creates the ‘fear of scrutiny’ among all the concerned and this results in systemic improvement and prevention of ‘financial murders’( large scale irregularities and wasteful expenditure), said Shri Naidu. He also referred to the dream of every MP to be on PAC given its role and importance.

Alluding to the scope of wasteful expenditure and mis-utilisation of scarce resources, Shri Naidu recalled former Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi saying about 35 years back that out of every rupee spent, only 16 paise went to the people and called for a fresh assessment in this regard.

The Vice President referred to various initiatives launched by the Modi Government for efficient utilization of resources besides checking corruption and improving governance. He said: “It may not be out of place to note on this occasion that the Government led by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has over the last seven years undertaken a wide range of initiatives to ensue effective utilization of limited resources. One illustration is the Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) which has resulted in substantial savings. Corruption has been substantially eradicated and spirited efforts were launched to improve governance at various levels”.

Shri Naidu stressed that while reaching the benefits to the people, there should be ‘’no line, no que, no waiting list, no meetings, no greetings, no shaking of hands and no doing in between hands’’ implying that DBT serves this purpose.

Complimenting the PAC for it’s contributions over the years, Shri Naidu said that it’s effective functioning ensuring financial accountability of the Executive enhances people’ trust in the ‘oversight’ function of the Parliament and management of public finances. He also noted that accountability and transparency in public spending improves the confidence of investors as well.

The Vice President urged the PAC to reinvent itself based on the experience of the last 100 years to more effectively ensure financial discipline in the context of the central government’s Budgetary expenditure increasing from a mere Rs.197 crore in the first Budget to Rs.35 lakh crore now, marking an increase of 17,766 times making it’s monitoring by the Committee that much more complex and challenging.

Naidu has called for a minimum of 100 sittings of Parliament every year and an adequate number of sittings of State Assemblies to enable detailed discussions on a range of issues. He urged political parties to take a consistent stand in this regard instead of speaking differently while in opposition and in the Government.

Naidu also stressed on improving the functioning of Committees of Parliament as they enable bi-partisan discussions rising above the political divide. “Discipline, Time sense and ethics should guide all those in public life’’ stressed Shri Naidu