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IF I WERE FINANCE MINISTER, By Shivaji Sarkar, 23 Feb, 2015 Print E-mail

Budget Musings

New Delhi, 23 February 2015


By Shivaji Sarkar


No that is not what my job is. I know Finance Ministers are never praised. Even for rights they are criticized and for wrongs lambasted. In reality, I feel that most Finance Ministers don’t understand the bureaucratic statistical jugglery. I too.


Most Finance Ministers are considered wise men - right hand man of the Prime Minister. I certainly do not qualify for it. But still having reviewed Government finances and analyzing it the ignorant, I feel now every housewife should help the Finance Minister prepare the Budget. I have heard that wives of many Finance Ministers, including of Manmohan Singh, were unhappy with the budgets presented by their husbands.


I told my wife Anju, to help me in that process. She said: “Please stop doing that. Except bringing lots of raddi, Budget has not ever helped me”. That’s brusque for an onerous job that fills half the newspaper and television news time through the year. Are they all producing raddis? The Budget has no sanctity. My better half says, “It has only one sanctity. After each Budget, problems go up, processes become complicated and prices of commodities rise. After a Budget I buy less than what I bought for the last one year”.


Should the Government then stop making the Budget, I ask. She says, “No. Its ingredients remain the same. Why don’t you standardize to bring out the budgetary statement in an automatic fashion.” How is it possible?


She brings some old Budget papers without the cover and asks, “Tell me which year’s Budget these are?” I can’t make out. Figures look so similar. The style has not changed and every Budget claims better days – ache din ayenge. My wife knows better than me that she was happier when salary and income was far less than what I, my son or daughter has today. I agree.


But she throws up a challenge. “You claim to know so much about the Budget. You have been the worst critics of Finance Ministers. Why don’t you prepare one for me? At least prove me wrong”. She even threatened like the tax man: “If you don’t, I will stop preparing food for the family”.


Having suffered under the hands of Finance Ministers, and having starved often, I didn’t want the children to suffer. With a glum face, that is how I have seen most Finance Ministers, I sit down to prepare the onerous national duty.


I write: I shall abolish income-tax.

She asked me why? I told her at least I can buy my lunch, which I often forgo. It would also save me from taking loans at high interest to pay for my granddaughter’s primary education. She was furious. “Do you want the Government to starve”, she asked like a capitalist-communist. I feebly explain: “The Government wouldn’t be a bit poorer. Of course, many tax officers would lose a lot--their jam and butter. The Government could do well to sack at least two-thirds of them and save over Rs 2 lakh crore – more than Rs 1.75 lakh crore that I-T brings. It would also save lakhs of people harassment, despite having paid what they could”. She agrees, but adds: “Why should the I-T officer and his gang agree. You don’t know the dynamics of dealings”. I said, “You are right, but Prime Minister wants a clean India and I want to help him”.


Abolish tax deducted at source on bank deposit;

Anju said, “That is sensible. I have lost much. But I can somehow bear it. But do you know my maid complained she lost sums for keeping her money in the bank. I have advised her not to do it again”. This was my turn to be furious: “You have done great disservice to the nation. If people won’t put money in banks where would the Government get money to borrow and run the administration? Most Government servants would not get their salary either”. Cursing me she said, “Government should be honest and shouldn’t loot poor man’s money”. She was making sense.


Abolish Highway toll:

She said, “Cannot you think of except abolition?” She wasn’t wrong. I argued, “Do you know each time you pay for patrol, Government steals Rs 2 as road cess. There is almost Rs 1 lakh fund. It isn’t being utilized or being utilized to reduce Government’s fiscal deficit. We are being forced to pay toll on highways and expressways. Don’t you remember, earlier we used to go out on drives? Last time you yourself said no, as it has become unaffordable. Besides, it makes vegetables, food grain and all other items expensive”.


She said, “It seems you are right though I don’t understand what fiscal deficit is”. I said: “It means Government borrows my money and asks me to pay more to feed the corrupt contractors”. She yelled, “Is that so? The Prime Minister must abolish it and make travel free as per constitutional guarantee”.


End Education cess: 

I tell her, the Government is charging cess too for education. But do you know the education shops have been sold to private looters, sorry educators. They are bleeding us. Why should I pay this cess? She said, “You are right. My father used to say that schooling was so affordable and quality was good. If the Government can’t do its duty, why should it levy any charge?”


Make agriculture fundamental of economy:

Anju disagreed. “You would remain in the medieval ages. I know how zamindars in my village used to look down upon the kisans. They are rustics, don’t understand. If their land is used for industry so many jobs can be created and they could live like babus”.


This was a bit too much for someone, who was steeped in Gandhism, as is our Prime Minister. I replied: “If kisan wouldn’t till the land, where would you get your basmati rice, MP Sona wheat, the delicious fruits and vegetables, which you love the most. Do you know over 75 crore people of the 125 crore population still subsist on farming? No industry can give kisans jobs. If the kisan doesn’t do farming, no industry would give a job to turn him into a babu. He would come to the city with a begging bowl. Would you like that?” She says, “You are right”.


Strengthen Rupee:

I said I want to do much more, but today I would stop by making Rupee stronger so whenever I go abroad, I don’t have to buy the dollar. I can pay all bills in Rupee. She said, “You are a swadeshi brat. What would a strong Rupee do? It would make our exports expensive and nobody would buy Indian products. How would you manage current account deficit”.


I explained: “Don’t worry. Stronger rupee means Indians would have power to buy goods and fuel cheap from world market. Your forex outgo would be less. And about exports I am hearing the same arguments since US President Lyndon B Johnson befooled former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi with this argument in1965 and forced her to devalue rupee for the first time. Then rupee rose from Rs 4.50 to Rs 7.50 to a dollar and now it’s at over Rs 62, but the argument remains. Don’t worry, a stronger rupee would bring in more foreign currency. India would become the world market hub and the best place to live”. She nodded. Will she scan this coming Budget, I wonder. ---INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)









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