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Perspective

Old habits die hard
Calling Pranab’s bluff

N Mahalakshmi

Nowhere in the world is a relic like the Budget showcased with as much pomp as in our country. Except for the media, whose purpose does the Budget really serve? Like a fund manager friend once put it, the Budget is now more of a TRP (Television Rating Point) event than a GDP (Gross Domestic Product) event! The Budget may well be an embarrassment for the government, which invariably falls short of its revenue target, but for broadcast companies, it’s quite the opposite — but for the Budget tamasha their annual revenue would surely be dented.

Worse still is how corporate chieftains and ‘experts’ play along in this whole drama coming up with politically correct statements like, “Considering that the finance minister had a tough task at hand, he has done a fine job of balancing the twin objectives of growth and fiscal deficit.” Year after year this is one line — or something to similar effect — that no one of note misses stating in public. The gripes are shared over a private cocktail. 

This year is not any different from earlier Budgets, especially the last one.As usual, the fiscal deficit fixation continues. This year’s target is lipstick on a pig. Revenues could fall short considerably, given that growth is clearly slowing and expenditure could overshoot due to higher oil subsidies. Turn to page 65 on why the fiscal deficit target is unrealistic, why viability gap funding measures may not pay off and why GST (Goods and Services Tax) will take its own sweet time coming. 

More worrying is that the finance minister has failed to deliver initiatives that could have pulled us out of this growth stagnation. But really, who cares? The Budget is over. And the government still stands. For other self-serving issues, subject to sound coalition management, there are another couple of years to argue over.

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