What’s Not To Like In This Budget?February 6, 2021
A few things.
You see we’re an easily pleased people. Especially after 4% growth, a six-month shut down, concertina wire on a local state border and a pending attack on our sovereignty by a pop star and an environmental activist.
This kind of trauma makes one more grateful for the simpler things in life – like a government that no longer hides expenditure off balance sheet. When governments come clean it feels a lot like when you fly out of Delhi in winter. Even just entering the plane offers lung relief. So what if you are technically still in Delhi.
Or like a government that doesn’t raise taxes on the 1.5 crore people that do pay them. That’s when your ears pop, you settle in with conviction that this will be a smooth flight.
As you look at the divestment numbers the plane has crossed cruising altitude. Whoa, Rs 1.75 lakh crore, the Finance Minister has set her team a steep target. Yes, steeper targets have been set, like last year it was over 2 lakh crore rupees. Mukesh Ambani took it to heart. But maybe North Block internet speed let our friendly babus down.
The passenger next to you peers into your budget papers and laughs. She says, the average divestment receipt since 2014-15 was Rs 58,000 crore per year. The best year was FY18 when divestment crossed Rs 1 lakh crore thanks to ONGC. The gentleman next to her says he’s an insurance agent, pulls out his business card and says “main hoon na”.
The lady introduces herself too. “I’m Mrs. FRBM Act,” she says and continues arguing. You make a mental note to ignore her, not just for now but for at least 4-5 years.
The stewardess passes by with a tray full of apples, desi chana and non-alcoholic cider. Curious mix. She cess the airline company wants to support agriculture infrastructure development. Health and education cess, Krishi Kalyan cess, Swachch Bharat cess, Road and Infrastructure cess, GST Compensation cess, the budget documents very neatly list them all. Ordinarily a new cess pushes prices up. Luckily for you, this cider some state is subsidising.
Mumbai is in sight. The skyline glimmers beckoningly when suddenly the pilot makes a sharp turn. It makes you reconsider your goodwill towards the airline. Starting April 1, 2020.
Finally, two hours later you land. No Covid tax. Reasonable tax revenue targets. Additional capital expenditure. DFI, ARC. Asset monetisation pipeline. And, two PSU banks plus one insurance company on the block. You’ve arrived. But, with some baggage.