By Anshul Verma:
On the 28th of February 2013, Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram presented the Union Budget for the financial year starting March 2013-April 2014. This was the 8th budget which was presented by the man from Madras as the Finance Minister of India. Unlike 2008, when Chidambaram single-handedly paved the way for the re-election of the UPA by means of loan waivers for farmers, this time around, he was given the task to revive the economy amidst difficult and challenging times in which our country happens to be. One thing which can be appreciated in this budget is that he has belled the fat cat by taxing the super rich. On a general note he was able to keep the populists at bay by presenting a politically realistic budget which was met with lukewarm responses from all stakeholders be it the government itself, the opposition or the industry.
What is really disappointing is the fact that this budget has allocated a meagre amount for the upliftment of areas affected by Naxalite movements and development of tribal people, which have been accepted as the worst problems India is facing. Instead there has been a remarkable increase in the defence budget to increase the CRPF in these areas to murder more innocent people. It really amazes me as to when the government will change its attitude of keeping these people away from the development process.
Another stint was to open a PSU Bank for women in the name of the Delhi braveheart. Well, I believe that it is nothing but a cheap manner of getting a political mileage on a sensitive issue such as the gang-rape case. Mr Chidambaram could have easily come up with a solution of assigning every 7th or 10th PSU bank branch for women only.
Yes, Chidambaram ‘on paper’ was able to find a feasible solution through which he could tame the ever growing fiscal deficit of India which is well over Rupees five lakh crores now. But observing the current market scenario and the inefficiency and bureaucracy of the government, it does not seem hopeful to cut deficits on that part. The lack of tax reforms and the inability to push Direct Tax Reforms have made the bad conditions of governance even worse. Also, he refrained from imposing more taxes on the industry probably due to the rising pro-industry image of the BJP poster boy, Mr Narendra Modi.
The Union Budget 2013 failed to come up with any major surprises, which was the last opportunity for the government of this term keeping in mind the 2014 elections. The government knows that they must be doing something very wrong with an economy like India with a massive working population, growing with a 5.5% GDP. Stocks remained nearly stagnant and even the TV screens went buzzing without any firecrackers. Adding to the disappointment, the Finance Minister’s speech didn’t make any special comments about the performance of some of the key projects of the UPA2 like the Aadhar, MNREGA and FDI in Retail. The Finance Minister hardly spoke about the impact of these schemes which were portrayed as ‘game-changers’ by the incumbent government. All in all, the formality was done well but the problem wasn’t encountered. Well, what can we really say as things once done cannot be undone.