One of the most popular statements in TV debates after the announcement of the budget meandered through visits to the zoo and museums becoming more attractive.
Let me begin with the pre-budget zoo first. On the social media we must indeed be appearing like a zoo with exotic voices wanting a 200% tax on karela to prevent mothers from forcing us to eat them, free vacations for women as marriage is akin to bondage, a better tax slab to those who are able to book tickets on IRCTC in the first go, a higher tax slab on women as they talk more, a green tax rebate for flat owners with a hundred or more potted plants, and onions and potatoes priced in an inverse proportion so that at least one remains affordable.
In such a zoo of ideas, the FM stood to announce
A budget that only talked of a plan to pounce!
Well, Mr Jaitley may not have preferred to salt-n-pepper his budget speech with a liberal dose of poetry, but he did mention his intent to usher in fiscal change, woo growth, and at least frame a picture of the uplift of the poor. All that the poet in me understood after hours spent listening to him was that he was encouraging me to save more and was hinting at making our spending habits more transparent. The finance ministry does seem to be saying:
Disclose your assets abroad, dear friend
We also want to curb blackmarket trend.
The FM began by saying that his government had ‘inherited a sentiment of doom and gloom’ but had a commitment to sweep it all, though in a phased manner, making sure that policies were streamlined to encourage banking for the unbanked and funded the unfunded. Now, some of us have interpreted this as highly pro-corporate and anti-people. This isn’t quite true. The high allocation for infrastructure is the main focus and the corporate sector gets a phased reduction in corporate tax-rate. There will be the emergence of a law to handle disputes in public contracts… well, isn’t the government planning a GDP growth between 8 and 8.5 percent and a fiscal deficit of 3.9 percent in 2015-16? The FM did reflect an optimism of the ruling party somewhat like:
A double digit growth isn’t far into the future now
A sentiment of doom and gloom will give way to wow!
Really? The common man doesn’t seem to be sharing this optimism though. All over we hear people cribbing about the raw deal that that the middle class has been dealt. The absence of the conventional tax slab differences is irking us all. But I suspect these noises are because most of the hoi polloi do not know much beyond tax slabs and service tax. I find it funny to listen to people lamenting the loss of twenty rupees on a dinner of a thousand rupees!
Increase from 12.36 to fourteen percent is unkind
Why doesn’t the government let us relax and unwind?
What most of us are not appreciating is the way the Jan Dhan – Adhar – mobile banking nexus is turning the nation slowly but surely towards a really swachch income Bharat. Just as stopping a subsidy leakage is more important than doing away with subsidies, if we manage to get all transactions done through credit and debit cards, we will have contributed towards building a nation with a strong fiscal profile where black money has no place at all. As I have mentioned earlier, the two major thrusts of this budget are ensuring transparency and encouraging a sensible planning for the future.
Inflation is a result of wealth undeclared
Fiscal health is spending transparently shared!
As against the popular notion, I do not find this budget pro-business though the common grouse of the common man is that he is now asked to ‘walk more and eat less’, build his own pension, and stop dreaming of living in a tax-haven with up to 5 lakh free from any income tax. Even the 2 percent surcharge that is to be levied on incomes above a crore did not really placate the disturbed common man psyches who thought budgets are events that make life more affordable.
Let me end this short post with rhyming lines as this is the only facet that was missing from the Budget 2015 presentation:
Go ahead, common man, and learn to save more
Your future now depends on your saving score
Visit zoos and museums and have time to learn
Generating black money you now need to unlearn
Make it in India to earn more as you sell for less
Corporate taxes will now give you less stress
The poor aren’t affected and the rich don’t care
Middle class thinks the budget, to them, isn’t fair
But hey! The Sensex seems happy with what it hears
As the future surely doesn’t seem to rhyme with fears!
Allow me to add at this stage that it isn’t budgets that make or kill us as it is the way others interpret it that affects the way it is perceived. So it is always good to look at what benefits and hum away in a rhyme all that doesn’t appear worth reading.
Article published in Business Insider on 02 march 2015:
Article also published in MarketingBuzzar on 02 March 2015:
02 March 2015