- kewal sethi
as i said in another context, overnight experts emerge when an event happens.
this is also true for annual budget exercise. it is said that on the afternoon of febuary 1, there are 2.339 million economic experts. the number increases to 8.616 million next day and dwindles to 2110 on february 3. not being an expert, i am not part of this crowd. yet a comment is called for, or otherwise how do i justify my existence. so, i have to choose one.
choosing from so many comments to have one of mine is a bit difficult. the best comment that i came across was
डेढ़ घण्टे तकबजट भाषण सुननेके बाद मैं ने श्रीमतीसे पूछा — कुछसमझ में आया।
उस ने उत्तरदिया — संबलपुरी सिलक साड़ीथी।
but jokes apart, of course, the budget is anti-poor, pro rich. every successive year, the budget has been same. it has always been so and will continue to be so, notwithstanding which party is in power or whether there is any party in power or not, all being equally powerless.
yet the country marches on. the estimates for growth of gdp vary from 2.4 percent to 6.8 percent. the number of poor, according to experts in that field, rises from 67% to 73 % while the government of the day claims that it has come down from 28.3 % to 21.6 %.
another trend is now in fashion. the top one percent have 28.3 % of wealth; and the top ten percent have 78.61 % of wealth. (the figures after the decimal point are to assure public that these are based on detailed, painstaking survey). that reminds me of the tv show where a couple is preparing a strongly recommended dish from the recipe given on television. the surveyor (who actually moved out of his chamber) came to enquire about the efficacy of instructions to which the reply was in negative. we have been stirring it for fifteen minutes as instructed and yet there is no smell of fried besan. the surveyor (a very dedicated person, indeed) looked and found that gas was not lit but the couple said that instructions were to put it on gas and not a word was said about lighting the gas. the fault lies elsewhere.
that is the usual government statement. nevertheless, we have to believe the surveys.
now to come to brass tacks (thankfully tax on brass has not been raised this year). the emphasis is on infrastructure. more roads, more railway tracks, more concession to companies who are busy on these tasks. the kitty is limited so there has to be reduction somewhere else. the social sector is ever obliging. so, there is reduction in mnrega, in scholorships, in subsidy for free food. a total disaster. if there are no free goodies, how does the nation progress.
never mind, these are figures (what is a budget without figures). they have to be there to keep the fiscal deficit within limits. there will be enough time to blame wars somewhere (ukraine right now but it is always safe to say so) or pandemics or oil crises or environmental incidents which will explain the running away from promised rate of fiscal deficit.
one can be sure that the subsidies will remain and revised estimates will take care of increasing the fiscal deficit, with due (and some undue) explanations.
individually, all that interests a common man, especially an employee - and that term includes a former employee - (who considers himself to be apart from the nation), the direct tax he has to shell out. he draws comfort from the relief (even though it may be token). but this year the budget denied him even that. the income tax proposals are so worded that it leaves every one perplexed. the two modes of taxation (old regime and the new regime), number of slabs, number of eligible deductions, the scale of exemptions - all these have to be sorted out. one thing, however, appears to be certain. the government appear to be keen on promoting new regime. after all, something new is always better than the old one and do not tell me about the adage – a bird in hand is better than two in the bush. the government appear to encourage jumping into the bush to find the truth, bitter though it might turn out to be. after all hope is eternal. budgets come and go but struggle for life is continuous.