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An interim budget sans goodies

A country inching towards the fully developed status cannot be fully immune from the global economic environment that includes diseases and conflicts. 

Finance minister of India / X/@sansad_tv

The budget presented by the Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, on February 1 pretty much stayed on script. An interim budget, also known as vote-on-account, is usually without any special announcements or frills and programs that are normally associated with a regular budget.

And that has to do with the fact that India is looking at General Elections sometime this April or May which will be followed by a full fledged budget when a new government is in place.

Even if the stakes were clear at the outset, the Finance Minister’s presentation was not without critics. If the salaried tax payer was looking for a few breaks, that did not happen; and the opposition political class dished out the routine even if it sat through the session in Parliament in attention excepting for an occasional groan or murmur. 

The bottom lines were quite clear: the hands of Sitharaman were tied for the most part.

Staying with tradition on an interim budget aside, the Finance Minister’s short presentation—fifty six minutes this time compared to a record two hours twenty in 2020—also exuded confidence that the Modi government would be voted back for a third time. 

“We expect our government will be blessed again by the people with a resounding mandate”, was how Sitharaman put it. 

It is not as if the Finance Minister or the Prime Minister is unaware of the challenges that face the country as it has embarked on the “fully developed” ambition by 2047.

Economic development does not happen in fits and starts as it requires a long term vision and discipline that is certainly not done by catchy slogans and dishing out freebies that puts a break on fiscal prudence.

Of course, a country like India has to take care of its under-privileged lot and with this comes the need for special programs including subsidies. But all this needs to be done keeping in mind the fiscal health of the country. 

One of the things economic managers do is to ensure spending is in line with incoming income or a deficit of manageable proportions. That is a problem that all countries face and India is no exception.

A country inching towards the fully developed status cannot be fully immune from the global economic environment that includes diseases and conflicts. 

For more than two years the international system was witness to the ravages of the Covid and even today occasionally jolted by its variants; there is no end in sight to the war in the Ukraine that has jolted food grain supplies; and the goings on in the Gaza has impacted shipping in the Red Sea that goes much beyond receiving Amazon packages on time. All these things matter to India.

The ruling party and the political opposition in India are confident in their own ways of staying or coming to power after the general elections. The task before the electorate is not too difficult: identify those who keep in mind the priorities of India.  

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