Friday, February 26, 2021
Home Opinions Budget 2017: Nation waited for Dabangg, Jaitley said Hum Saath Saath Hain

Budget 2017: Nation waited for Dabangg, Jaitley said Hum Saath Saath Hain

The Union Budget 2017-18 was primed to be explosive – income tax cuts, banking transaction tax, securities transactions tax, long term capital gains tax, universal basic income, demonetization windfall – there was a whole bunch of things discussed, proposed, and speculated. And now, eventually all junked.

The nation – supporters of the government and the detractors alike – waited with a bated breath assuming Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will deliver a Dabangg budget – a Salman Khan at his caring, scheming, and edgy best. Instead, Mr. Jaitley has delivered a safe, defensive, conservative, and a wait and watch budget which gives a Hum Saath Saath Hain feel – a mild, please most, annoy least Salman Khan of the Rajashree Productions version.

What’s negative or unimaginative is the obvious. There is nothing much for the poll-bound states. That’s already a budget made for poor politics – good judgment has little space in governance anyway! The announcements of December 31st and the income tax cuts likely to benefit the lower middle class income tax payers are the only arsenal the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will have to take to the voters.

There is no demonetisation linked new stimulus, though a lot of the extra capex and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) will be targeted as a counter. But the political space on the issue was ceded by not creating labels and buckets with direct links.

Also, the government decided to play it completely safe. Perhaps waiting for the Goods and Services Tax (GST) disruption, the government stuck to making top level announcements, creating few new schemes and presented an incremental view to consolidate. If this was a one day international game, Mr. Jaitley batted through the 30th to 35th over milking the opposition – to use a Ravi Shastri analogy.

On the macro-economic front, the government decided to continue on the path of fiscal consolidation. Fiscal deficit of 3.2% next year, revenue deficit of 1.9% and future promise of achieving 3% fiscal deficit should please the India focused economists from Mumbai. The Foreign Portfolio Investors got their clarity on the taxation on securities traded outside India – this should minimize the op-ed noise which was very loud in December. The allocations for the states will further go up this year, a welcome step.

The thrust on rural and agricultural spending is the big story. The MGNREGA allocation will be a record 48,000 cr. The emphasis will be on specific assets and not just on wage payments. This is a huge commitment, and it is quite possible MGNREGA morphs into a universal basic income (UBI) over the next few years, where universe implies rural universe.

Increased allocations for rural roads and affordable housing with relaxed norms for what constitutes affordable outside is aimed at boosting construction activity in the hinterland. There were announcements around making drinking water safer, linking upgrade in rural drinking water infrastructure to sanitation and creating a gram panchayat level tracking and monitoring index. The actual policy and implementation should make for interesting reading in this space.

Boost for jobs specifically was limited to announcements around packages in textiles and leather and footwear industries. The Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendras will be extended to 600 districts and this should see more private participation for skilling youth.  There were some announcements on a National Testing Agency, new medical seats and investments in digital platforms for learning.

The indication on treating transportation as one big subject was a positive. The 2.41L cr allocation across railways, roads, inland waterways and civil aviation was perhaps stated for the first time as an integrated number. If this leads to more coordination and lesser bureaucracy over the next few years, it will be a great move.

There were no fancy announcements on railways or metro trains and no cut down of expenditure on roads – the focus continues to be on creating new infrastructure, boosting core sectors and chasing the revival of the illusive investment cycle. Creating a fund for railway safety is a good idea. Focus on BharatNet with a more realistic target of connecting 150,000 gram panchayats on the broadband network should be welcome – this target can well be achieved realistically given the resources and expertise available.

The government stressed on the probity plank via a new mechanism to fund political funding. Electoral bonds with anonymous investments will be launched and cash donations for political parties over Rs 2,000 will be deemed illegal. The intent to act against issuers of bounced cheques is a good statement to make. Not allowing cash transactions over Rs 3,00,000 is a good idea, though that limit needs to progressively come down.

There are a few new thoughts – targeted spend to counter deadly diseases, a new pilot for Aadhar linked health record for senior citizens, abolishing the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), land monetization to develop smaller airports, low noise divestment through Central Public Sector Enterprise (CPSE) exchange traded funds (ETFs), two new strategic crude reserves, enhanced defense spending, forward markets in agriculture integrating the Electronic National Agriculture Market, listing Railways CPSEs and doubling MUDRA covered lending.

The direct tax changes are obviously helpful but only a small step. Small firms paying less tax and earners less than Rs 5,00,000 annual income paying less tax are both great steps. Offsetting the tax revenue loss through penalizing those earning more than Rs 50,00,000 is a terrible idea, but then with hardly a million or two tax filers in that category, there is almost no political impact of such bad decisions. Perhaps before the next election, the government may want to co-opt the rich, but given how moneymaking is treated in India, no one should bet anything on it!

Structurally, killing the railway budget, the plan and the non plan classification, and allowing the budget allocations to be used before the monsoon onset by bringing the budget presentation forward are good themes. Hopefully another government will not undo any of these.

The TV channels hunting TRPs, newspapers waiting for streamers, and opposition waiting to label government as profligate and big-talking will be disappointed. Those looking at the budget as a vehicle to genuinely overhaul social problems – healthcare and education and to name two – will be disappointed as well.

This is an apolitical, conservative and a defensive budget. It reduces the importance of budget in the general policy making which in itself is not a bad thing as long as legislative action continues. Will it?

  Support Us  

Whether NDTV or 'The Wire', they never have to worry about funds. In name of saving democracy, they get money from various sources. We need your support to fight them. Please contribute whatever you can afford

Aashish Chandorkar
Bollywood, Business, Cricket, Economics, Finance, F1, Football, Indore, Politics, Pune, Technology.

Related Articles

Trending now

Election Commission announces schedule of assembly elections in four states and one union territory, counting on 2nd May

Dates for assembly elections in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam and Puducherry announced by the election commission

‘We should be outraged!’: Senator Rand Paul grills Biden’s nominee as Dr Levine refuses to condemn sex change procedure for little children

U.S. Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky grilled Dr. Rachel Levine at her confirmation hearing in the U.S. Senate.

Meet British MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi: Khalistani connections, pro-Pakistani stance on Kashmir and vocal during ‘farmer protests’

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, or Tan Dhesi as he is addressed sometimes, is a Labour MP from Slough in the United Kingdom.

Rahul Gandhi lies about India clearing millions of dollars of Chinese FDI after a 9-month freeze: Here are the exclusive details

Rahul Gandhi shared a report that relied solely on sources, to claim that after a 9 month-long freeze, India had started clearing FDI from China

China forces US diplomats to undergo anal swab tests, Biden administration calls it undignified: Reports

The Chinese authorities later acknowledged carrying out such tests and assured that they would not be using anal swabs on American diplomats to test for COVID-19 in the future.

Watch: BJP Party President JP Nadda gives his own spin to ‘Pawry Ho Rahi Hai’ meme at West Bengal rally

BJP President JP Nadda seems to have put his own spin on the 'Pawri' meme during a rally at West Bengal ahead of 2021 Assembly elections

Recently Popular

US President Joe Biden casually drops the N-word during Munich Security Conference, accused of racism on social media

The N-word is considered as one of the hateful words that were first uttered in the 17th century. Its origin can be traced back to the Spanish word 'negro', which is often used by white supremacists to deliberately offend the African-American community.

Did Aamir Khan’s daughter Ira Khan elope with her Hindu servant? Here is the truth

The image that is being used to claim that Iran Khan has 'eloped with her Hindu servant' was originally shared by Nupur Shikare, her fitness trainer. The two were posing on the occasion of Diwali.

Govt removes safety net that allowed platforms like Twitter to not take responsibility for their misuse, officials can be penalised

If social media platforms don’t comply with the provisions of new guidelines, this will attract penal provisions under the IT Act

I worry about Yogendra Yadav’s mental health and his The Print article on the 2021 Bengal elections proves I am not wrong

As BJP rises in Bengal, a panic attack was detailed in The Print, written by our very own Icchadhari protestor, Yogendra Yadav.

‘Hindi filmmakers repeatedly insult Hindu Gods and Goddesses’: Remarks Allahabad HC rejecting bail of Amazon Prime’s Aparna Purohit in Tandav case

Aparna Purohit is accused of hurting religious sentiments through scenes mocking Hindu gods in the web series 'Tandav' on Amazon Prime

Adani Pavilion and Reliance Pavilion at Narendra Modi Stadium: All you want to know about naming stadiums and pavilions

The stadium was named after PM Modi as he was a former president of GCA, and Reliance & Adan won bids to sponsor two pavilions
- Advertisement -

 

Connect with us

253,124FansLike
520,461FollowersFollow
23,700SubscribersSubscribe