A very middling budget
Finance minister Arun Jaitley’s Budget FY17 generated no great excitement in the market or the masses. Even the BJP supporters call it a “holding exercise” by the so-called hard-nosed finance minister to maintain the “economic momentum”. Jaitley was clearly bankrupt for new ideas as was evident from his ‘managerial’ budget. Those who paid great heed to it could rate it neither high nor low. They could not speak either for or against it. To trot out the old cliché, it tried hard to “please all”, a budget presented with an eye on the upcoming state elections. The effort made to dispel the impression of the government being a suit-boot-ki sarkar and prove that it is not anti-poor or pro-rich was unmistakable. The awareness that the continued neglect of the poor would be politically costly explains why the government has come out with such a seemingly “not anti-poor” budget despite its commitment to embarking on big-bang economic reforms. The much-anticipated budget re-focused on the social sector modelled on the UPA government’s budgets under the direction of Sonia Gandhi. Still, there is no notable increase in allocations to improve human development indicators. It does not qualify to be hailed as a “farmers’ budget” in that there is nothing substantial to equip farmers to cope with the agrarian crisis. In fact, farmers need more than what has been promised to alleviate their distress and stay away from suicide. The assurances on crop insurance and debt relief are at best nominal and only meant to contain rural people’s growing disenchantment with the government for its indifference to their plight. The announcements do not seem to hold the potential to bring about changes in the material circumstances of the impoverished multitudes and usher in acche din. This is because the budget was prepared and presented within the existing economic architecture set up without giving priority to universal welfare. One lesser talked about fact is that tax incentives to the industry for high growth rate in GDP have been left untouched. If the prime minister were in the Opposition and was required to assess the budget, he would hesitate before giving the pass marks.
Davild Milton, Maruthancode (TN)
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