Herald View: A Union Budget that delights comedians
When staid budget documents and long-winded budget speeches start inspiring comedians, it is time to worry. Watch|Comedian Garima appears as FM Nirmala Sitharaman to summarise Union Budget 2022
An incomprehensible Union Budget is clearly good for the party in power than a Budget that makes sense to people at large. While industrialists led by Gautam Adani and most panelists in TV studios rallied to hail this year’s Union Budget as ‘historic’, it left the nitpickers cold. Why would the Finance Minister convert an annual accounting exercise into a blueprint for the next 25 years, they asked. Why make a fuss about the next quarter of a century when the FM fails to give a clear picture of the economy over the next one year? Why promise six million jobs in the next five years when 53 million have lost jobs in the last two years?
It is however futile to blame the FM because her advisors are now so used to sophistry and so confident that they will get away with it that she is but a pawn in the hands of the maddening system. To be fair to her, budget speeches and budget documents have almost always been beyond the understanding of most people. Even legislators, Parliamentarians and people in the media are not generally known to glance at the voluminous and intimidating budget documents. No demand has ever been made to make budget documents simpler so that even the common man can follow what their elected governments are up to. It is no surprise, therefore, that Budgets are largely left for experts to decipher and pontificate on. While pundits continued therefore to scratch their head to make sense of the budget numbers presented this week, it has been left to comedians to sum it up. Pundits can scarcely do better than comedian Garima Goel, who concluded that this year’s Union Budget, presented by Nirmala Sitharaman, offered a carrot to the poor, a stick to the unemployed and to the already wealthy more business opportunities to increase their wealth. Mimicking the FM, she summed it up in Hindi by reminding her viewers that this year’s budget offered the following, namely “Gareebon ke liye Anda, berozgaron aur kisanon ko danda aur poonjipatiyon ko dhandha”.
While the Union Budget may have been reduced to a joke for the common man, the emphasis unerringly is on helping finance and technology sectors to grow. While the Budget makes the right noise about goals and macro economy, it falls short on details. What is more, a parallel and much needed emphasis on education and health, never mind the grand announcements on online classes, is missing. The numbers are however stark enough.
Record GST collections, aided no doubt by higher prices, and high taxes on petrol and diesel contributing substantially to the government’s revenue, have still left a huge fiscal deficit to be covered by borrowings. And the numbers show that the Government is increasingly borrowing from small savings of the people, depending on selling assets and dipping into the reserves of the central bank. The Niti Ayog however would have people believe that joblessness is a myth and reducing allocations for the rural employment guarantee scheme a good sign. The Government is starved of funds and needs more revenue. But it is neither willing to spend wisely nor ready to tax the rich. With the corporate sector reaping record profits but failing to invest and generate employment, it needs to pay more in taxes but will not, leaving the burden to be shouldered by the poor. This is neither good governance nor the balance that fiscal policies seek to achieve.