Budget 2011: My Views

I get confused while hearing, watching or reading budget. Sometimes, it is difficult to believe if the achievement claimed is real. For example, can I believe when the FM claims, ‘the total food inflation declined from 20.2 per cent in February 2010 to less than half at 9.3 per cent in January 2011’?

Does a growth of a sector on low base of previous year provide a clear picture? ‘In 2010-11 agriculture is estimated to have grown at 5.4 per cent.’ What will be the first impression of this exciting number on anyone who doesn’t know that it is mostly due to a very low base figure of the previous year? Should not this figure be an average figure of last five years?

I also wonder why a secular finance minister keeps on seeking the blessings of Lord Indra and Goddess Lakshmi. Let him pour money on irrigation, minor, major, river interlinking, creating water bodies, and storing all that nature gives. Let him cut the wasteful expenditure that Lakshmi expects one to do for getting prosperity.

It also presents dismal lack of mature policy and management, otherwise how can ‘the spurt in prices of onion, milk, poultry and some vegetables’ with ban on the exports of onion, be justified, if just a month ‘prices of onion have crashed in wholesale markets and the government had to remove the ban on their exports’. Why can’t the organized retail be encouraged to buy straight from the producers instead of mandis? Why the selling price can’t be linked somehow with the price paid to the farmer?

Shri Nandan Nilekani may find out a technical way out ‘of direct transfer of subsidy for kerosene, LPG and fertilizers to people living below poverty line in a phased manner’, but will Mr. Pranab Mukherji and his government be able to keep the promise of getting the system in place by March 2012? Further, is there a consensus on the definition of ‘below the poverty line’? That must be a priority. And they must get even Nilekani’s Adhar numbers on priority within a time frame. Further, will a person or family below poverty line remain so for ever? And how many of those below poverty line are farmers and are the buyers of fertilizers?
It’s interesting that the government collects huge sum through say, 3G auction or disinvestment and spends on the social sector. Should it not be invested in empowering the weaker sections by providing education, power and healthcare in more aggressive manner?

Does it take so many years to realize that ‘for sustained growth of GDP and productive employment for younger generation, it is imperative that the growth in manufacturing sector picks up’? Mr. Krishnamurthy, the former MD of Maruti Udyog as the chairman of Manufacturing Competitiveness Council and CII had already made recommendations in his report. However, it a good promise from the FM that he promises to take the share of manufacturing in GDP from about 16 per cent to 25 per cent over a period of ten years. However, I am skeptical if the government will go for sustained necessary focused actions required to make Indian industry globally competitive.

As it seems MGNREGA is becoming a grand social security. It could have been more productive if it could be managed well and if it would have focused on creating permanent assets. Every village must have its own plan document- new projects as well its maintenance that requires the engagement of the people under MGNREGA. Unfortunately, most of the people who are expected to manage it, are unscrupulous and the beneficiaries are not enlightened enough to stop them from getting into malicious way of making money.

Pranab babu has given a big boost to the grass root Anganwadi workers and Anganwadi helpers by doubling their remunerations. I hope that they are regularly trained to carry out their functions more effectively. But will the increase sustain their increasing aspirations?

However, I liked most his proposal of the revised Centrally Sponsored Scheme “Vocationalisation of Secondary Education” that will be implemented to improve the employability of our youth.

But I wish the leadership of the ruling party works hard to have consensus on big ticket things such as GST and FDI in retail. And it should be possible as shown with JPC on 2G scam or Nuclear Bill. Both must appreciate it that the younger generation expects them to go that way. The centre must listen to good proposals from the states. Why should it not look into Nitish Kumar’s proposal to cut down the number of central government projects that run into hundreds?

I have been watching the presentation of the country’s budget every year since Hindustan Motors days. At that time it was to assess the impact of the proposals on the cost of vehicles. Now I feel the process has become almost standardized. And neither the finance ministers nor the administrators have some great breakthrough new ideas. Sometimes, I guess that the task can now be done by a good computer programme automatically. A group of IT experts can come out with a simpler way of making budget removing the burden of the mantriji and babus. Why the government should not use some experts, may be Nandan Nilekani, for this switch over?

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