Thursday, March 01, 2007

Budget chatter: what’s in it for us?

Listening to 20-somethings on the budget was a revelation

The budget session in Parliament was an oddly exciting experience, what with all the big political players sitting in the same room. Some paid attention, some fidgeted, the backbenchers joked, and some took notes. But what intrigued me more were the reactions of friends who came with me to be in the visitors’ gallery (willingly may I add), all about 25.

During the lunch that followed I was constantly reminded that we had all grown up (cannot afford inane college talk anymore). The conversation drifted to how the budget affected each one. That mutual funds can now directly invest abroad is a huge step said one; they no longer need to go via off shore companies. What about the healthcare industry lamented the other, when will the government give subsidies to larger hospital equipment?

The word on the rialto is good. The feeling is that India is finally taking off! Investment is the buzzword. When Chidambaram joked that he had good news for pet lovers (less import duty on pet food), the Opposition protested, ‘aam aadmi ka kya?’ and I realised I had been nodding along too for I have a friend in the business.

The difference that I have realised is that my personal interests and those of my friends lie at the macro, not micro level. We see the problems of the country, not because we have faced them but because we are the elite. We can afford to look at the economy in terms of opportunity.

And so lunch continued: didn’t they want to change the budget after the setback in Punjab and Uttarakhand, asked one. The other replied, yes, but you can’t change the budget overnight. Lighting a cigarette, another asked, remember the day cigarettes were cheaper in India than abroad?

It seems to me that the economy is divorced from politics for my friends. The logic is that economic progress needs to continue, no matter who is in power — India’s economic joy ride is not going to be derailed. But petty communal politics scares a lot of us who have grown up in diverse communities because it could disrupt the progress that’s been made. That’s not the India we want to live in.

But then again, you can’t expect all twenty-somethings to pay too much attention. I had mentioned to someone I was going for the budget session. The reaction: “Oh really, where is it?”

One day we’ll all grow up.


IR said...

why are "we" the elite ? because we move around in cars and speak in english ? if the "non-elite" are dying of hunger,it is because of the govt and if we are'nt it is inspite of the govt.

we have as much to gain or lose with the country's fortunes,

rossoneri said...

someone should do something abou cigarettes. in smokers the govt has found a very rich source of income year after year and by attaching a social stigma to it they continue to tax tobacco endlessly, without anyone protesting. i dont see the tax on any other item rising every year for the past god knows (i remember 10) years.

The Dude said...

its a hard argument... but yknow its a toss up.. the govt (to be fair/play devils adv.) is so fixated on economic progress likely cos if we can fix the countrys economy and make it strong enough, we can then begin to fix our problems in earnest with the resources to follow it through...
of course there is the old concept that before you step out into the world, you clean up your own backyard, so in the end we need to make that call, fix the micro problems first? or setup the macro systems well and then try and deal? will it be too late by then?
im not judge, so dont know, just stating what i see...
and as far as the 20 somethings go, well, we're learning, sure most of us dont know a lot of what are major issues in many parts of the country, but we would if we spent more time travelling around our own country instead of globetrotting.. same issue, we need to decide if we want globalisation first or domestic stability guaranteed... each has pros and each has cons, how do you choose?
oh and the obsessive taxing of tobacco every year? unfair, cheap and underhanded...

Pradeep said...

Yes, development has to go on whichever party is in power. This is not something that our people have understood. And, no wonder our progress is so slow.