February fever

A first-hand view of how business is coping in these difficult times and comments from market experts

Gauging by the instant reactions that came in after the finance minister finished his FY14 budget speech, it seemed that the media was more disappointed than the corporate world. That could be because corporates generally don’t criticise the government openly. But this time, perhaps it was also because businessmen are resigned to the status quo. This observation is an outcome of the ground reporting Outlook Business did over the past fortnight across eight industrial clusters in the country — from Pantnagar in the North to Hosur in the South. The businessmen we met complained about the poor state of infrastructure, power problems, labour shortage and several other issues. To their credit, they continue to be optimistic and are not expecting any magical solutions right away.

It is not just a coincidence that this year’s budget has done very little to change the status quo. To be fair, there was hardly any room for the minister to do anything dramatic. Given the sluggish economy, there was little maneuverability with respect to fiscal measures. But more importantly, going by the track record of previous budgets of the UPA government — when it had greater opportunity to move ahead with big-bang measures — one should not have expected a lot to begin with. 

Much as the media may project the Budget as the thing to watch out for, it’s not a quick-fix platform. In these matters, the stock market is a much better guide and its verdict was clear — it was a thumbs down as the day’s gains evaporated by the end of the budget session despite some good news for traders. But then, as some corporate chieftains put it, “things could have been much worse.”

In this special issue, we get you a first-hand view of how business is coping in these difficult times and comments from market experts on how the budget deals with the state of the economy. Unsurprisingly, the issues confronting businesses across the nation are the same. Unfortunately though, the solutions to these are still nowhere in sight.