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Scrutiny
  
The top-secret
The IIPM Think Tank proposes that the Indian budget should not only be a societal budget, but also be a platform wherein the contribution of aam admi should be allowed
06/03/2008

r. P. Chidambaram in his last budget, quoted Tamil saint, Tiruvalluvar, and said that if ploughmen keep their hands folded, even sages claiming renunciation cannot find salvation. But he seems to be half prepared and seems to overlook those millions of farmers who are forced to keep their hands folded perennially, even for the most basic rights & necessities.

According to International Budget Project (IBP), participatory Budgeting provides a citizen a platform wherein they deliberate and negotiate over the allocation of public resources. Conventionally, civil organisation and social sector experts have been excluded from the budget preparation process in India. The budget seems to just represent the ruling party(ies). Even the Opposition doesn’t take initiative to have a pre-budget consultation or to put forward their memorandum or people’s voice before the FM. According to Open Budget Index, a recent study by the IBP, India provides citizens with “some information” on the Central government’s budget, while some countries, such as France, the US, South Africa, New Zealand, the UK and Slovenia, provide “extensive information” to their citizens.

UPA Government restarted the dis-investment process by permitting sell-off of power sector PSUs, through IPOs, in order to raise Rs.1,500 crores. However, this policy decision never got any mention in the budget speech but was mentioned in the credit column of budget balance sheet. In the last budget, FM announced the 22.5% increase in gross budgetary support for Central plan, but didn’t even mention anything about the state plans (wherein the increase in gross budgetary support for the state plans is just 8.2%), which further reveals the horrifying part of the story that 14.3% of Central gross budgetary support increase will actually be funded by the state resources.
The analysis and report by IBP depicts that India’s budget provides only limited information to the public and even to the Parliament. India does not even have the tradition of disclosing the pre-budget statement The study clearly shows that there is enough room for further improvement towards sharing budget information with the stake holders to ensure an informed participation.

Even total Union Government spending has significantly decreased (as a proportion of country’s GDP) in 2007-08 compared to 2006-07. There should have been an increase in the Plan expenditure component in order to endow India with ample resource support for critical development to sectors like agriculture, employment, health and various other social sectors.

What can be more manipulative; allocation for social sector was a mere Rs.50,000 crores, compared with total subsidies granted to the ‘rich beggars’ and corporate lobbyists, which stand at Rs.500,750 million, Rs.537,680 million, Rs.22.3 billion on various subsidies, export promotion schemes and customs and excise exemptions, respectively.

To reduce indebtedness of farmers, FM had put up a provision of increasing bank loans to Rs.22.5 billion and also to cover an additional 50 lakhs peasants. But then, why – even after such a huge farm credit in the agriculture sector – there is no stopping the farmers’ suicides? The budget did have a provision for a five year tax holiday for multi-star hotels in Delhi & NCR keeping in mind the approaching 2010 Commonwealth Games (the progress for which is again not up to expectations). Moreover, the budget did offer Rs.5 billion plus various tax exemptions to the corporate houses, but didn’t find it important to spare sufficient resources for social sectors. Isn’t it a gargantuan waste of taxpayers’ money? According to the Education For All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report 2008, India is one of the 25 countries that are far from achieving the goals of the EFA. Studies show that condition of malnutrition and sanitation in India is worse than in some Sub-Saharan African countries.

By:- B&E
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