What are the three thingsyou wish for from the Budget?
The overflowing foreign reserves, the 9% growth rate coupled with peak flow of foreign funds are all welcome, but several issues get camouflaged under this glitter and need to be addressed with all seriousness.
First, the distress in the agriculture sector coupled with negligible growth is an obvious challenge. Second, prices of essential commodities have hit the ceiling and inflation remains obstinate. Third, the ever-growing inequality is prevalent not only among the states, but also among individuals surviving with less than subsistence income. The disparity sounds more glaring when more and more Indians figure on the billionaires list.
If you could end one thing, what would that be?
My concern has primarily been to check the delivery systems and their rickety mechanism. Any budget or allocation planned ambitiously should be restructured instantly if deliveries and outcome are not ensured. The disbursements should reach the target group directly without official delays and implementation needs to be smoother. Any system which is porous and where outcome cannot be monitored or gauged will always retard growth. Expenditure reforms are a core concern which remain unaddressed.
If you were finance minister, what would be the one thing you would want in the Budget?
The 400-million-strong unorganized workforce, which is a mammoth productive human resource, should be targeted to inculcate skills. The abundant manpower, which is a captive potential for exporting skilled and quality manpower to the world, is a sector which deserves a constant policy endeavour. The very fact that a skilled German manpower costs around Rs1,500 an hour, whereas the same can be hired for less than Rs100 in India for a day, is a pronounced advantage globally. Manpower and human resource development should be the topmost priority.
What is the one thing you don’t want changed?
The defence budget which will possibly cross Rs1 trillion should not be deprioritized on any account. Observing the unstable terror-ridden neighbouring environment and enhanced cross-border infiltration and other security concerns, the amount required for national security should not be curtailed at any cost. Participation of Indian firms in defence-related production with external scientific and technological advancement should be encouraged to enhance benefits of employment within India.
Which budget disappointed you the most? Why?
This is the fourth and possibly the final budget of the United Progressive Alliance government and frankly speaking, the economy has grown in spite of the lacklustre reform initiatives which have been aggressively thwarted by the allies. Undoubtedly, the foundation of core infrastructure and systematic reforms initiated by the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government earlier have been tom-tommed by the incumbent regime. The absolute failure to address inequality with a dismal performance on the agriculture front can’t be overlooked. Chidambaram has reasons to celebrate as a lucky finance minister.
One proposal you think is shot down in every budget, but shouldn’t be.
The booming aviation sector, which was one of the milestone (achievements) in the NDA (rule), has been ignored with virtually no incentive in the last four years. The reforms put place in the aviation sector during the NDA regime triggered the ongoing growth, with major policy initiatives right from privatization of two metros of Delhi and Mumbai, sanctioning the two greenfield airports at Shamshabad (Hyderabad) and Devanhalli (Bangalore), permitting private airlines to fly international, launch of low cost airlines, first-ever financial incentive by reducing excise of aviation turbine fuel were signs of the major policy thrust. However, the present regime has failed to give a single financial incentive to sustain the aviation sector’s growth.
What would you consider to be inclusive growth?
Inclusive growth would only be significant when India grows with Indians. The outlook suggests that India is surging but a majority of Indians are not. Inclusive growth would primarily mean fair employment opportunities, mitigated farmer distress, reduced inequalities and certainly a strategy of resurgent growth addressing both the rural and urban sector endeavour to diminish the divide.
Rajiv Pratap Rudy is spokesman, Bharatiya Janata Party.
By Ashish Sharma