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Tuesday, Mar 01, 2005

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A survival guide to PC-speak

SINCE not everybody as smart as the whiz kid on the finance channel, here is a quick help to those who got stumped by the lingo that the FM deployed in his Budget speech.

Let's start with `liquidity overhang' at the end of 2003-04 that "spilled over into 2004-05". Oh, no, don't look for spilt milk, because this is about too much money available, not necessarily in your pocket.

There's the para on the `big picture' where PC talks about expenditure running into thousands of crores; well, that may be too big for most of us. Those who dozed off missed the `full speed' at which the FM sees "all the engines of the economy" running. Like it or not, "On a like-to-like basis, GBS for the Plan in 2005-06, works out to Rs 1,72,500 crore."

He informed us, "India is not a poor country, yet a significant proportion of our people are poor." How? Because, "Poverty is not only income poverty." Never feel excluded, since the FM is committed to "inclusive economic growth". Budget is not masculine or feminine in English but there is now talk of `gender budgeting', to highlight `gender sensitivities'.

Bharat Nirman has been conceived as a business plan, we're told, so they mean business, or at least plan to. There'll be support for "expansion, diversification and value addition" and also "space to grow and compete with each other" though the packing of many a `tion' makes the words compete with one another, rather than giving space to listen.

An `improved farmer-friendly crop insurance scheme' is thought of, though it's tough to say which one is improved, friendliness or insurance. "The people of the country are concerned with outcomes." Ah, at last, somebody knows! PC won't take offence at criticisms because he believes that "Civil society should engage Government in a healthy debate on the efficiency of the delivery mechanism."

Let me caution you: "However, we must now take up the task of restructuring the subsidy regime in a cautious manner and after a thorough discussion." He trusts, "I have been able to remain on the path of fiscal consolidation," though `fiscal' is getting too coagulated in our minds that some `degree of fiscal correction' may be necessary.

If you'd watched carefully, "there has been a considerable strain in making the Budget for 2005-06," so PC had to "press the `pause' button vis--vis the FRBM Act." Try resisting going over his lines once again, for the Minister is greatly "relieved that we have not been forced to go in the opposite direction."

Be it known that "we are perilously close to the limits of fiscal prudence and there is no more room for spending beyond our means."

The Government has planned to undertake "major tax reforms to improve the tax-to-GDP ratio, expand the taxpayer base, increase tax compliance and make tax administration more efficient." That's five `tax'es in a row. The FM has promised to bring down Customs duty rates and correct "any inverted duty structures", which doesn't require a sirasasan to understand.

When he gave "a leg-up to the leather and footwear industry," few noticed the draftsman's art. Did the sleeping members rise with `sunrise sectors'? Doubtful, because I'm sure their seats provided "stability in the medium term".

D. Murali

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