Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented India’s Budget last weekend, offering a mix of tax cuts and spending proposals – but failing to even acknowledge that the country is dealing with an economic slowdown.
The Political Fix, Scroll.in’s weekly newsletter on Indian politics and policy, looked at some aspects of the Budget last Monday, and will delve further into it over the coming week. But today, here are 10 reads from around the web examining various aspects of the Budget:
- The Budget has very little for Indians, writes Bloomberg’s Andy Mukherjee. Its aim is making the country attractive to foreigners at a time when things aren’t going well elsewhere.
- “Listening to this year’s speech was a surreal experience because it seemed like the finance minister’s generally upbeat and buoyant attitude was referring to some other economy,” writes Shruti Rajagopalan in Mint. “In the longest budget speech ever,not once did she mention the word “slowdown” or reference slowing growth rates, or a growth slump.”
- The Economic Survey made a detailed analysis of the causes of the slowdown. The Budget, however, simply said the fundamentals of the economy are strong. “Not surprisingly, when the existence of the problem itself is denied, it is difficult to find solutions,” writes M Govinda Rao in the Indian Express.
- Sitharaman announced new, lower tax rates but made them conditional on taxpayers giving up their exemptions. Ashwini Kumar Sharma in Mint says that only a few taxpayers will benefit from the new rates, and most should choose to stay on the old system.
- An editorial in the Business Standard calls out the higher tariffs and protectionism built into the Budget: “The economic history of India till the 1990s reveals the dangers of allowing the belief to take hold that tariffs lead to job creation and a productive base. It did not work then, and it will not now.”
- The government has preferred short-term fixes to genuine change, writes Suyash Rai in the Hindustan Times. “Overall, one can say that in spite of its political capital, this government prefers tactics and operations to strategy when it comes to the economy,” he writes.
- “In deciding to depend upon global pools of capital, India’s government will be forced to listen to at least one group of people who care about growth and investment,” writes Mihir S Sharma on Bloomberg. “It’s up to the bond markets now to do what nobody else has: Get Modi focused on the economy.”
- Puja Mehra in Mint takes a look at the basic questions around the Budget: Are the tax projections realistic? Has the fiscal strain been addressed?
- Siddharth Zarabi in Swarajya has an unusual recommendation: Why not a quarterly budget? “This frequency of review alone would allow the sunshine of parliamentary scrutiny on implementation and ensure detailed reviews and necessary course correction on a faster basis.”
- “With central reforms increasingly announced outside budget speeches, and both revenue and expenditures starting to become predictable, it might be more productive for public attention to move to other areas of government functioning like state and municipal budgets,” writes Neelkanth Mishra in the Indian Express.