Friday, July 11, 2014

Financial Tiki-Taka



I was never really good at anything with numbers – mathematics, finance or economics. Naturally, I am unable to grasp the dynamics of the annual budget. Which is a pity because when people use terms like Fiscal Deficit, Gross Domestic Product or Cash Reserve Ratio, they come across as cool intellectuals. But I am so dumb that I took time to realize that the Finance minister was not referring to an insect repellant but the Dividend Distribution Tax (DDT). While I feign interest during the budgetary analysis, I actually grasp zilch. 

However, what I know is that on the day of budget presentation the finance minister outshines the Prime Minister. He gets to wear a crisp kurta, carry a precious briefcase and give us a delicious mysterious smile. How can I forget Chidambaram’s smile just before he was about to pinch my pockets? As far as briefcases go, it looks innocuous enough, but holds the hopes and aspirations of a billion plus people. 
Just as we get to see Messi’s girlfriend in the stands in Sao Paulo, we also get to see the finance minister’s elusive wife. Yes, behind every man about to score a goal is a woman with the assist.

On this big day, Rahul Bajaj, Deepak Parikh, Chanda Kochar and Naina Lal Kidwai grace our television sets to tell us whether taxes will squeeze the last pip of our lemons. As far as I understand, members of India Inc. are wary of criticizing the government in power, so they balance their act by telling us how the budget is a nice balancing act. Given their long term interests, it makes sense to run with the UPA and hunt with the NDA. Yeah, Kejriwal is right. Sometimes.

On this day, opposition leaders like Mayawati and Mulayam tell us how the budget is anti-poor, even as the ticker on television tells us that budget is poor friendly. The poor meanwhile are wondering how to buy onions for their next meal.

Another unfailing feature of our budget is the hike in excise duty on tobacco and cigarettes. Since our FM forgot all about the black money stashed away in the Cayman Islands, he decided to silence Ramdev by hiking excise duty on toilet cleaners..err cold drinks. (Those who think that the list of foreign account holders does not have a single person affiliated with the BJP, raise your hand.)

Meanwhile the main opposition party comes up with a rehearsed reaction on the budget – no clarity, no vision, nothing substantial. The budget is old wine in a new bottle.
For me, the silver lining was to see Arvind Kejriwal on my television after a long time. He told us that that if you close your eyes and listen to the budget speech, you can sense Chidambaram’s soul in Jaitley’s body. In other words, both are useless. Give me a chance to present a budget. Adani or Ambani ki aisi ki taisi.

On this day, the cartoonists have a field day, portraying the finance minister as Superman, Harry Potter or Akshay Kumar (remember Singh was once King as a Finance Minister in 1991). Since Football is the flavor of the season, we saw coach Modi using defender Arun Jaitley to score a goal. Only time will tell whether it was an own goal or a golden goal. Frankly, I don't care much about the convoluted economic jargon. What I wish to know is when can I buy veggies, milk and cereals and not feel the pinch? When can I travel by rail and feel clean, safe and comfortable? Will my tax refund arrive at all? And can the student from IIM Rohtak find a job that matches his counterpart elsewhere in the world? 
At the end of the day, that golden briefcase carries hay, unless words get converted into meaningful action. Goals, I mean.

29 comments:

  1. Hear! Hear! Even after understanding all those words AND throwing them around, no-one really has the answers to your questions - probably not even God :)

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    1. In case of a bad monsoon things could get really Messi...err Messy.

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  2. All I could gather from the budget was that mobiles are going to be cheaper and now I can save 50,000 more in tax exemption :-). But as you say these big words and figures hardly make any sense to me. What I want to know is when will the life of the common man become easier !

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    1. As Suresh says, even God doesn't know.

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  3. Yeah, that's my question too...I wish the salaries hike relatively as much as the prices of onions!

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  4. The little sleek briefcase held by the FM is like a silver lining albeit for a brief period.

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    1. The briefcase holds a brief for the nation.

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  5. Those last lines....to the point.
    All we can do is wait , watch and hope for the best.

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    1. Things will begin to show results after an year. Amen.

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  6. Frankly i am not much interested in the details of these budgets--life goes on as usual--but the silence on black money disappointed me.

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    1. I hope they don't turn out to be two sides of the same coin.

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    2. Yes that would be terrible.Remember how V.P.Singh came with the promise of exposing the Bofors thieves?

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  7. I posted a longish comment earlier, it disappeared I think :( But the main thing I remember from what I said was this - I hope some of the plans and proposals that have been announced in this budget also get implemented in reality and are then effectively followed up. This is the more serious issue in India, announcing new plans is always easy. And among some of the welcome announcements made, the plan for a war memorial was one that made me happy as a citizen :)

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    1. Exactly Beloo...meaningful action on the ground and impelemtation is the key. I doubt if there is enough in the kitty.

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  8. Budgets come and budgets go. Grand schemes are announced with much fanfare but I always have a sinking feeling that none of it is going to make any difference on the ground. I have a feeling that FMs just play around knowing that so many hopes are pegged on them. The entire statue thing left a bitter taste in the mouth for me. I guess no one really has the answers you demanded.

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    1. True. They cant stay away from some sort of symbolism can they?

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  9. hmmm Well thankfully the budget has no effect on me .. but every time hear so many schemes this and that and never see them taken to the right conclusion ever.

    and i surly cant answer any of your question .. as such I am not that bright :)


    Bikram's

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    1. It is an over hyped annual exercise.

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  10. I liked that cartoon of Modi and Arun Jaitley in the goal post trying to save a goal.
    For every budget I see truck loads of sacks being downloaded in front of the parliament. What is that? If they are some sort of supporting documents for all the calculations done, why bring it there? Is some one going to ask the proof ? And if asked who is going to verify? Help, I want to know what is those sacks.....

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    1. Perhaps someone from the North Block can answer....

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  11. In our country, Union Budget is mostly about cruelty against the high earning and making them pay for someone else's mistakes.

    And I always wait for the next day's newspapers with pretty illustrations of what went up and down to get a clearer picture.

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    1. You said it. It's cruel. And it hurts.

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  12. "What I wish to know is when can I buy veggies, milk and cereals and not feel the pinch? When can I travel by rail and feel clean, safe and comfortable? Will my tax refund arrive at all? And can the student from IIM Rohtak find a job that matches his counterpart elsewhere in the world? "

    This is the essence of everything. This is all that matters. The 'cool intellectuals" can sort their technicalities out.

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    1. Now we can add tomatoes to the list !

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  13. Encore Alka! :) I dont know how I had missed this earlier but I logged in now.. just when I had had a quick argument with myself on reducing the number of onions to use for the Rajma I will make later in the day :P
    As long as I need to think twice while doing that, hesitate to travel by train, the jargon they use will fall on deaf ears..

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    1. :( add tomatoes to the list. Supply side problems all around. The demand is unending!

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  14. Lets accept it.No one understands this terminology .
    It is also a fact that opposition parties get a written note from high Command as to what words should be used to criticise the budget.

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  15. Oh dear! When I read DDT on the front page of TOI the day after the budget, even I went - why haven't they banned this carcinogen in India yet!
    Well, looks like you and I are in the same boat! Maybe I would have fared better had I taken Economics instead of Science in school. Not that I comprehend anything on that topic either!
    Hilarious essay!

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