2014

Budget 2014 – The way forward

Vel Anru Venri Tharuvathu Mannavan

Kol Athuvoom Kodaathu Enin.”

(Not the spear but sceptre swayed with equity

Alone gives the ruler victory.)

The Finance Minister namely; Mr. P. Chidambaram presented the last budget for the current UPA tenure two days back. The last budget of any outgoing government is an interim budget, which is in effect for merely till the time the incumbent government leaves the office, due to which not many significant changes were expected. However, the Finance minister tried his level best to grab the attention of as many voters as possible for the upcoming elections with as few populist measures as possible such as one rank one pension for military personnel and the education loan subsidy to clean up the bank loan. What was noteworthy was the bold move undertaken by the FM by decreasing the excise duty of all segments across the automobile industry by 4-6% in an attempt to revive the automobile industry. Although the news was hailed by auto industry and investors alike, skeptic critics termed it as an end result of ubiquitous lobbying.

As Indian budgets tend to be, this too was packed with dramatic hyperbole statements, with the most apt example being the aforementioned couplet by Sage Thiruvalluvar. In all probability the words were a potshot at his fellow competitors, while pointing out not-so-subtly, UPA’s achievement over the years. The FM in order to back his point, narrated the attainments of UPA over the last 10 years.

The most important of all points in the speech, which the FM was exceptionally proud was the Fiscal deficit and the CAD figures. The FM proudly pointed out that he had contained Fiscal deficit at 4.6% of the GDP and the current account deficit stood at $45 billion. However, the ends doesn’t justify the means. The ways used by the FM to achieve those figures were criticized by experts, who pointed out that the FM had merely rolled over some expenses and slashed planned expenditure.

Merely altering rates of taxes, clearing projects and reducing expenditure cannot get out the economy from the dump. Fundamental changes such as introducing GST, DTC and IFRS along with privatization is the key to fiscal consolidation. The FM has quite clearly failed to address these issues. However whether or not he has managed to convince the people of India to stick to his party remains to be seen.

2013

As every writer is obliged, I too am to write about the year which passed by. With a few more hours to go, it is almost time to bid adieu to 2013 and thus I shall recollect the events which made this year notable. I shall not be exaggerating if I would claim that the year has been a depressing one. On a worldwide scale, the Cyprus Bailout early in the year, put a dent in the much shaky EU financial system. Moreover, the Edward Snowden chapter raised questions on the fundamentals of human rights, while the Wikileaks latest release on the secret Transpacific Agreement further propagandizing the fact and alluded the ever-widening grip of capitalism in our lives. The ObamaCare programme fiasco and the US Shutdown marred Obama’s administration, while we are once again poised for another showdown between the Republics and the Democrats in the first half of 2014.

Closer to home, the UPA did not seem to have learnt from their earlier mistakes. The PM failed to adequately respond to allegations of him being involved in the 2G spectrum scam and the Coal Blocks allocation scam. The Food Security Bill passed in September 2013, which aimed at providing food grains at a subsidized rate was touted as a delusionary tactic in order to win over the masses before the upcoming elections. The Sand mining scam involving IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal and the NSEL scam further pointed out how incompetent the UPA 2.0 era was.

Nevertheless, the year did bring its reasons to be cheerful. The financial markets made a comeback with most indexes outperforming their corresponding debt market benchmarks; while Dow trades at all time high. The European Union finally stabilized during the latter half of the year after a rocky couple of years. Shifting focus back to my home country; as India was embroiled between a BJP – Congress war of words, there emerged another successor in the form of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led by Arvind Kejriwal. Not that I am a stout supporter of any particular party, AAP has managed to spur a nation wide movement against corrupt leaders, which had seemed impossible until only a short while ago.

Keeping politics aside, the year was dominated by youngsters; Magnus Carlsen (aged 22) managed to defeat Vishwanathan Anand to become the youngest World Chess Champion, Eleanor Catton (aged 28) became the youngest person ever to win the Man Booker prize for her book titled ‘The Luminaries’ and Quvenzhané Wallis (aged 9) became the youngest actress ever to be nominated for Oscars amongst others

On a much personal level, Manchester United winning the Premier league earlier this year did cheer me up while Pierre Omidyar and Jeff Bezos investing in various kinds of journalism reinstated my belief in its future.

In the end, a moment for those we lost during the year; Nelson Mandela, James Gandolfini of the ‘Sopranos’ fame, Martin Richard and others who were killed during the Boston bombings amongst various other people.

Concluding the post with a hope that 2014 be memorable. Cheers!