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Letter to BS on 'Budget 2018: Well crafted, but fiscal stress shows'

The Budget 2018 had more questions than answers

Business Standard 

This is with reference to “Well crafted, but fiscal stress shows (February 2). It is evident that the Budget was pieced together to look pro-poor more out of compulsion than conviction. It took the shape on account of people’s distress and disillusionment and BJP’s awareness that playing the Hindutva card alone would not get it through the elections in 2019. The Budget became easily amenable to the charge of window dressing.

The government that has a lot to answer sought to favour the impoverished multitudes by announcing a slew of unfeasible schemes and sops outgrowing its ill-disguised hostility to hand-outs. Announcing pro-poor measures without allocating sufficient funds made the Budget no better than a document of wishful thinking. Given the government’s track record as one long on ideas and short on performance, we are inclined to infer that the welfare, as well as ameliorative measures announced in the Budget, could well turn out to be jumlas.

The Budget had more questions than answers. For instance, the health care scheme for the poor, for which the government has promised Rs 500,000 per family for 100 million poor households. How will it manage the funds to implement the scheme touted as the world’s largest health care programme? If anything, the fancy schemes with no funds to match the expenditure entailed make them seem like political gimmickry.

The Budget left the obstinate problem of joblessness unaddressed, despite its potential to prove to be the government’s nemesis. The Budget may or may not lay a transformational road map for India’s progress and “strengthen the foundations of New India”, but the government seems to be unsure of itself. Despite the support of the upper castes and big corporations, it now has quite a fight on its hands to come anywhere close to a decisive victory.

G David Milton, Tamil Nadu

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First Published: Sun, February 04 2018. 22:48 IST