Focusing on growth: The Hindu Business Line

Focusing on growth: Jobs, farming, healthcare and education matter...

Budget with a focus
This refers to Chandrajit Banerjee’s piece “Focusing on growth” (Business Line, Budget wishlist, January 17). No one can dispute the rationale in the prioritization of investment revival, job creation, agricultural growth, education and healthcare (not necessarily in that order) as key focus areas for Budget 2018-19. Expectations galore, as this is going to be the ‘last’ full-year budget before the next elections. Finance Minister Jaitley may have to be a magician, tight-rope walker and a mathematical wizard, all-in-one while putting together a budget that will meet the gallery expectations from his forthcoming budget.
Centre’s fiscal responsibility commitments, unquenchable political thirst for populist measures that will attract votes and the pushes and pulls from states which had recent elections or are going for elections shortly will all add to the nightmares of the Finance Minister who is already on the defensive about demonetization and GST. FM may have no difficulty in making choices among populist measures or cutting and pasting some changes in paragraphs on direct taxes. Problems will crop up when he has to speak about legacy issues like agricultural income tax or taxing the super-rich.
While so much concerned about the recovery of NPAs or common man’s woes arising from Aadhaar-linking requirements, media and analysts opt to remain silent when it comes to the pockets where money is getting accumulated, adding new billionaires and making the rich super-rich. At some stage, FM will have to identify such pockets to make good the shortfalls and deficits that stare at him during the budget exercise. The band-in-aids of drawing from the so-called surpluses of PSUs or dipping into the reserves of the central bank, which can at best be short-term remedies, have been over-used during the last three years.
Money is accumulating outside the government fold, almost with the same speed at which heaps of garbage are growing in cities and suburbs. It is government’s responsibility to canalize such hoardings for productive purposes. Even if the details of money outside government accounts are not dovetailed into the budget, GOI’s guidance expressed through Budget Speech should be clear about the social responsibility of people who ‘grow’ rich, exploiting nation’s resources. Perhaps the responsibility to develop infrastructure for healthcare, transport, education, old age care and so on in geographical areas close to large industrial establishments could be entrusted to the industrialists concerned. This will release substantial budgetary resources for deployment in other priority areas and reduce fiscal deficit to a great extent.

M G Warrier, Mumbai


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