Budget time

It’s budget time. Like always, there is hope in the air and optimists are expecting the moon. Will they actually land on the moon or sing popular song ” Chanda Mama Door Ke” only the time is going to tell, which is not too far away, given that Nirmala Sitharaman has almost given finishing touches to the final document and wrapped it in a soft bag, a departure from the tradition of brief case?

If you ask me, budget is a hugely expected but soon forgotten event? Many of us remember finance ministers but hardly any particular budget, the only exception being 1991 landmark budget that brought India back from the brink of bankruptcy and initiated reforms that sort of changed the future course for our country. Otherwise. It’s all about taxes and more taxes and hardly any reliefs and in fact lesser reliefs. We had service tax than GST , surcharge, cess, higher bracket for super rich, more subsidies, bigger deficits and in short inflationary trends after each budget.

And the Government’s appetite seems to be insatiable! If the market whispers are to be believed, Government is proposing to impose inheritance tax, ensuring that I don’t peacefully inherit the property built by my father through his hard earned tax paid money!

And if you ask me what Government has in offering for common lower or middle middle class as social security especially in the old age – the answer is fend for yourself in this era when interest rates are south bound and inflation north bound! Healthcare is getting super expensive and Government hospitals are overcrowded, unclean and bursting at the seams, very few citizens are covered under old age pension scheme and there is hardly any social support system!

Yet its human nature to hope for the best and wait for “achche din”. My wish list for Madam Sitharaman would be:

(1) Rationalise personal income tax rates- tax rates could be high for super rich but let the structure be simple- do away with surcharges and cesses!

(2) Give tax breaks on investments in fresh production capacities and technologies to boost growth- stop focusing on stock markets, which should reflect outcome of growth rather than cause!

(3) Do away with tolls and toll plazas – let every vehicle owner pay fixed charge every year depending on his vehicle’s class!

(4) Incentivise birth control and small families, initiatives for social causes, contribution to green energy, water management and swacch Bharat, girl child and primary education.

(5) Invest in low cost housing (and maintain lest the buildings start looking like slums after 2 years), improve public transport ( new BEST initiative on mini buses – but where are the roads and traffic management?) , plant trees, manage water resources and prevent farmers’ suicide!

The question is where’s the money for the above notwithstanding record tax and GST collections? Broad base tax net – if everyone one is to get subsidy, old age pension or unemployment dole then each one should also shell out tax be it only Rs10! Make tax collection more efficient. Do away with loan waivers. Reduce unproductive subsidies. Reduce wasteful expenditure on advertisements, travels, security etc.

The need is to think out of box. The country is full of Manmohans, Raghuram Rajans, Monteks, Abhijits- the need is to be inclusive and open ! We have the best brains, best resources and best opportunities- lets encash all these and let this budget show the path !

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