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Budget bottles it

By Swati Chaturvedi | Last Updated: Monday, February 28, 2011 - 21:57
Swati Chaturvedi

Thank heavens the government directly controls only 18 percent of India's GDP because Mr Pranab Mukherjee's budget was awfully similar to a personal hygiene product he offered as a sop to women voters.

Un-imaginative, lacking a story, woefully short on deliverables and totally non-reflective of a government showcasing 9 percent growth and punting for foreign investment.

This was the only opportunity for reform and Mr Mukherjee bottled it. His next budget will continue the status-quo he imposed on himself and the last one will be filled with sops to get the voters to buy in to the government again.

The so-called big-idea GST - still has no time frame, and on the other big bang bills this government has not been able to deliver for the past four years.

Where was the impassioned plea for investment of a finance minister, proud of the economy he has steered to the second fastest growing in the world demanding that investors had no choice but to buy the big India story?

With a 30 percent fall in FDI and Indian companies choosing to invest abroad what did the FM offer them if not a timid mofussil mind-set?

Where was the reform that would have got the mojo going again? Instead, what we had was a cynical government tagging dole vote-banks with the narrow-cast view of a FM armed with a unique identification voter card. The taxpaying class - a miniscule minority was abandoned as the UPA chose to go after the mirage of the vote-bank.

And, after all the scams in which all of their own are being protected, the government seems to have lost the appetite for privatization. The FM also seems to have forgotten that he was flush with funds only because of corrupt and half-baked opening up of what the congress used to revel in describing as the ''commanding heights of the economy''. A clean auction of 3G spectrum should have been an eye-opener. It clearly was not.

Luckily, after P Chidambaram took the big step, no FM has been able to tinker much with rates otherwise, the UPA would have done much worse.

The UPA seems to be fossilized in to believing that the old-fashioned dole will wing their way back in to power and big government, is the way forward. But, as another Gandhi going by the prefix of Mahatma once said ''jab sarkar hoh vyaapar mein toh voter Bhikhaari'' (when the government is in business the voters turn beggars).

Maybe, Mr Mukherjee needs to brush up his Gandhi.

First Published: Monday, February 28, 2011 - 21:57

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