– By Vishnu Prasad Viriyala
“The Budget is disappointing. It has very little to offer to my sector” laments Kiran Mujumdar Shaw on NDTV. “Budget is truly reviving. It introduced incentives to REITs” celebrates another real estate company owner. “10 out of 10 for first 7 minutes of speech, then it is boring” opines a panelist on TIMES NOW. “Budget is good because sensex is going up, Oh Gauche! It is very bad, sensex collapses” equivocates another panelist demonstrating his imbecility in understanding simple things by making them complex. I was wondering what were we doing whole day? Have we reduced a union budget to something that influences sensex for a day? Is union budget meant for catering to a particular sector, section or is it just sum of all parts? Or is it just something that lets an average citizen know what have become cheaper or dearer?
A budget is much more than that. It is a numerical expression of inner intent, priorities and grander vision of a new government. It tells you the direction in which the policy makers of the country want this nation to travel. Viewed from that point, yesterday’s budget was a truly national budget and thoroughly nationalistic. Here is my take why it is so.
A Strong Bharat : Set your house first, world will come to you.
Lets first shed our notion that we need to beg for foreign investment. Not every country with a bowl in its hands and opening its doors will attract investment. Investors will flock to a strong nation that demonstrates its strength. During 1950’s, It is not a buoyant US economy that led to a strong US military but it is America’s military might that resulted in a strong economy. I liked previous NDA’s budgets too in the sense they tried to strengthen the weak link, that is, North East. Both the railway budget and the union budget of the new government have taken care of this most important aspect. Special allocation of Rs 3000 Crores for road transport for NE, 1000 Crore separate Railway allocation, emphasis on completing the projects in NE region and a whopping 53700 Crore allocation for North east region along with setting up a 24/7 TV channel “Aruna Prabha” preserving their cultural richness are all the right steps that enable not just economic integration but also emotional integration of the region with the rest of Bharat. This is of utmost significance especially in the wake of a hostile neighbor constantly looking for an opportunity. Provision for the rehabilitation of Kashmir Pundits and setting up new educational hubs in J&K are equally strong signals not only to local anti nationals but also to all those international opportunists as to what this Government stands for on national security. Although the increase in Defense budget was on expected lines, the quantum of increase made it clear the direction in which nation is heading.
Strengthened Villages: A strong Bharath needs a strong village set up
Some panelists in TV studios got bored during the speech because it was addressing the concerns of rural villages and agriculture. But not PM and his team because they knew that it is these villages and agriculture that is the heart of Bharat. This is evident from the kind of impetus given to agriculture and rural development. The entire theme around rural development revolved around Providing Urban amenities in Rural Areas (PURA), a dream project of former President of India Dr.APJ Abdul Kalam. Every Budget will have funds being put aside for agriculture. But, this budget distinguishes itself from the rest in its clarity as to how to serve the farmer better. Be it setting up 56 soil labs, or issuing soil health cards, or setting up a “National Adaptation Fund” to counter calamity changes or encouraging newer studies and universities, policy makers have shown wisdom in addressing the long term issues such as improving yield and providing better facilities rather than resorting to cheap tactics such as loan waivers or other short term subsidies. Another brilliant initiative in the budget is linking the MGNREGA wage payment to agriculture productivity. Wasn’t it simple economics that you cannot invest for long in a non productive asset?
Purification of Ganga is being criticized by some on the grounds that it is done to cater to the demands of nationalistic right wing groups. Even if that is the case, which is not, what is wrong in that?
Even an amateur economist will tell that the Return on Investment in the form of increased yield alongside the longest delta in the world in addition to the increased tourism, pilgrimage and balanced ecology will soon outclass the actual investment and prove to be one of the most financially viable projects. In addition to this, the dream project of previous NDA government that was abandoned halfway, interlinking of rivers, is taking a new form and if goes ahead, it is bound to change the destiny of millions of farmers and citizens in the country.
Self reliant Youth: Has he understood real Bharat?
The so called economists, intellectuals, analysts and experts failed to look at a huge world that lies beyond India Inc. i.e Indian unorganized sector or Inida UnInc. A staggering 50% of our GDP and 75% of total employment come from this unorganized sector, yet this has been hugely neglected by every FM so far. Our Harvard trained, economist ministers and policymakers so far have been taught how capital markets fund businesses in Anglo-Saxon economies and Banks fund businesses in Europe and in other Asian countries. But in India, none of the models will work. It requires a deeper and an in depth study to know as to how these small businesses are funded in India, but unfortunately none of the policy makers so far had such wisdom and failed to design an Indian model. From the road map given in his Budget, the new FM seems to have paid some attention to this aspect. Setting up a committee to study the financial architecture of MSME’s is one step forward in that direction. The government’s determination to empower the youth of the country and make them self reliant is conspicuously reflected in the budget. Apart from the budget allocations, the thought process behind ideas such as “Skill India” and “District level Incubation and Acceleration programme” raises the hope that this government is heading in right direction.
Overall economic philosophy
Though not deviated much from his predecessors in overall economic philosophy, one welcome change the new FM has initiated in his budget is to incentivize people to save along with spending. Increased disposable income as a result of increased tax limit and housing loan interest may well find its way into savings in the form of Sec 80C. Other measures to encourage industry and markets have been well taken care by the media and other vested groups.
The problem in India is the way we analyze any event or issue. People keep asking what is there for me in the budget and media keeps feeding what is there for you. John F Kennedy rightly said, “Do not ask what country has done for you. Ask yourself what you have done for country”. A budget is not meant for an individual, an organization, a group, a section or a sector. It is meant for nation. It will have nothing for you if you look at it in isolation. It will have everything for you if you consider yourself an integral part of the nation.
Then, how do I rate this budget? I firmly believe budgets are not meant for rating. They are just ideas the rating of which is dependent on their implementation. For those who are eager to know how good this is, I suggest them to wait for five years. Let our PM, as promised, come out with his report card after five years. You neither need an analysis nor an expert’s opinion to rate that. You’ll have a button in front of you and you know which symbol to press.