Revise the text of the Budget speech -Jayati Ghosh
The Finance Minister must move to an expansionary fiscal stance that prioritises job creation, public service provision
It is that time of year in India, when all eyes and ears turn to the Finance Minister to learn what she will unveil in the annual Union Budget. But it is a moot point whether, even in a year of the novel coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis, that speech will be of much significance. Indeed, it could be argued that there may be little point in listening to or poring over a speech that is likely to conceal more than it reveals.
What might be said
Going by past experience, we can make some predictions about the Finance Minister’s Budget Speech this year. It can be expected that it will be full of self-congratulatory declarations of how the country, the economy and the government’s finances have withstood the pandemic and how the economy is set on a path of revival. It will claim that the government’s policies have enabled the country to deal with the spread of COVID-19. It will downplay the completely inadequate health spending even in the face of the pandemic, and use absolute numbers rather than rates of change to suggest that public spending has been directed towards those in need. Ms. Sitharaman may take credit for controlling the fiscal deficit as much as possible despite the reduced tax collections, and even claim that she has been munificent to the State governments by increasing their borrowing limits. She will outline what will turn out to be completely unrealistic spending and taxation plans for the coming year. Meanwhile, the media will wait breathlessly for what they see as the crucial numbers: the ratio of fiscal deficit to GDP in the current year, and in the Budget estimates.
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The Hindu, 28 January, 2021, https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/revise-the-text-of-the-budget-speech/article33679083.ece?homepage=true