New Delhi. 7 July 2009.
Living up to high expectations from the market and riding on a heavy mandate to the UPA government in the recently held Lok Sabha polls, Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee presented a confidently confusing budget, surpassing the half-measured confused-ness of previous few budgets and equaling the legendary ambiguity of budgets of the 80’s. Loaded with genuinely confusing and at times contradictory terms like exemptions, subsidies, holidays, deficits, slabs, excise, cess, Rajiv, surcharge, Indira, Vikas, and infrastructure – Pranab Mukherjee was able to restore the lost glory of baffling budget-speeches in a short duration of 3 hours.
Bhanu Shah, a mid-level banker and stock-market expert in Mumbai, hailed the budget for its “zero focus on real problems and infrastructure, and still making it all sound so good and big.” Suresh Mahajan, a top-executive with FICII (Federation Instead of Confederation of Indian Industries) rated the “imaginative budget 10 i out of 10, i being the imaginary number, square root of minus one.” Further explaining his joy, Suresh Mahajan said – “Look…budgets are basically study in jargons…how to balance your jargon! You balance a subsidy with cess, holiday with surcharge and jewelry excise with cigarette sales. And the more imaginative you are, the more esoteric your balancing will be. Pranab Da is a pro!”
Though India Inc. is still not out with a clear verdict, experts believe that even that’s a huge indication that how monumentally confusing this budget has been. “We were sitting here, holding our wine glasses, hoping for a speech ripe with numbers, figures, terms, even new kinds of taxes…anything that doesn’t make sense at all, and he exceeded our expectations. I mean, right from the first sentence where he said “physical” and meant “fiscal” – he was on the ball”, said Aditya Birla Group’s COO Coolraaj Chibbar.
Though some quarters were disappointed with “seemingly straightforward, non-confusing measures like increasing the tax-exmeption limit for women”, Delhi-based Financial Expert GK Swamy believes “these are minor aberrations in an otherwise grandly hollow budget. Let’s not deny a credit where it’s due.”
Suhasini Verma, a housewife in Bhopal, has the final word on UPA-II government’s first budget. “His smile is better than that Chidumram’s (sic)…very sweet Bangali smile. But I don’t understand Bangali naa…so didn’t get a word of what he was saying.”