What are the three things you wish for from the Budget?
First of all, policies and procedures are at least as important as the Budget, but are largely ignored. With this caveat, I would like to say:
Girish Sant is coordinator of Prayas Energy Group, Pune. (Photo: Hemant Patil/ Mint)
The Budget should give strong emphasis on India-specific research and development to meet the challenges of India’s energy security, and ensure that growing infrastructure is built for minimum energy use.
Greater transparency in terms of taxes/subsidies for different technologies and projects through consolidated presentation of all taxes and subsidies. Lack of a consolidated amount prevents rational allocation.
Make sure that all subsidies through tax exemptions and tax havens are valued and consolidated. These hidden subsidies should then be compared with the subsidies given for the farmers?or the poor.?Some estimates put the former to be order of magnitude higher than the later. Taxes in India are much lower than several European countries. We should do a boots-up evaluation of tax exemptions and tax havens.
If you could end one thing, what would that be?
Lack of incentive for optimizing infrastructure planning. Hydro projects, for example, generate less energy than the design (promises), but rather than the promoters, the consumers pay a price for this. The same applies to all cost-plus projects, and there are several of these.
If you were finance minister, what would be the one thing outside your industry you would want in the Budget?
Before preparing the Budget, I would hold consultations with all sections of society, including civil society groups. Right now this happens to a very limited fashion.
I?would?give?major?emphasis?to?linking?all?databases of PAN (permanent account number) cards, voting cards, driving licences, ration cards, etc., to achieve a unified database, and increase the authenticity of income and asset reporting.
What is the one thing you don’t want changed?
Large government funding for electrifying 100% households (Rs5,000 crore per year). This should continue, albeit with a transparent and participatory review of the rural electrification programme. While creating a new fund of Rs100,000 crore for distribution, similar precautions are essential.
One proposal you think is shot down in every budget but shouldn’t be.
Increased accountability of decision makers. Using IT for accountability is still largely elusive while we talk of e-governance. Project outputs should be clearly linked to what was projected/planned. Transparent and open evaluation should be the basis of project completion reports.
What would you consider to be inclusive growth?
Till one-third of India is malnourished, India ranks at the bottom of HDI (Human Development Index) and at the top in child mortality, talk of inclusive growth is a mockery of the poor. We have to check the equity implications of all policies and stop justifying policies only on economic growth parameters. Money doled out in the name of the poor is equally or more susceptible to leakages—hence, allocations are insufficient unless they are accompanied with accountability for on-the-ground results.
Girish Sant is coordinator of Prayas Energy Group, Pune.