Piyush Goyal delivered his first Budget in the Lok Sabha, and while it was an Interim Budget, it was that in all but name. With sops and allocations increasing, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hand was all over this Budget. Even with recalculated figures that display some growth, evidence of that growth is hard to come by. While the Government might have disowned the joblessness statistics, it is difficult for all but those wearing saffron-tinted glasses to see jobs being created. While there is some historical evidence to show that consumer demand plateaus or even declines in pre-election years, Narendra Modi’s failure to deliver on his promise of 2014 is mind-boggling. While there are some positives, particularly with aggressive infrastructure building of roadways, railways and ports, growth in manufacturing and services have been non-existent and this has ironically exacerbated the agricultural crisis with farmers finding other options closed to them.
The terrific self-goal that Modi scored with demonetisation is still taking its toll on the Indian economy but was a result of the anti-intellectualism that this Government seems to pride itself on. But Narendra Modi was elected on the promise of changing India, delivering growth and jobs that the allegedly corrupt UPA had failed to deliver. He came to power promising to break the hold of Delhi’s power-brokers and middlemen and but only now, months before elections are these networks being attacked. But most importantly, Modi had promised to modernise India, and on that front he failed, possibly because he was taken aback at the ‘suit-boot’ jibe that Rahul Gandhi attacked him with, but after ‘that’ suit, much of India began to wonder what sort of man they had elected. Sure, Modi does not deserve some of the flak he has faced from malcontent socialists and the award-wapisi brigade are a group of people who fail to recognise irony.
But Modi has failed on the economic front, and even though he did finally deliver a Goods and Services Tax (GST) he allowed the tax bureaucracy to kill efficiency gains with paperwork. The tax officers of this Government have been economic terrorists happily attacking promoters and stifling jobs growth no matter what the PR spin from the Government.
On top of that, this government might have doled out to voters but has been abysmal in paying its dues. Delayed refunds from GST and even advertising bills left hanging for months have ruined the economy, the government of India becoming like a person in credit-card debt. The sops announced in this budget might not still win Modi reelection with another majority but whoever gets the hot seat next will have massive bills to pay, and following this budget that will likely still be Narendra Modi albeit with a reduced majority.
Saturday, 02 February 2019 | Kushan Mitra | in Analysis
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