ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Smoke and Mirrors in the Union Budget

Budget 2009 claims to use fiscal expansion to prop up growth, but does it do enough on this score?

For one brief moment, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee seemed willing to put the annual ritual in its place. “…a single Budget Speech cannot solve all our p roblems…” he said, signalling his readiness to swim against the once-a-year tide of media and market hysteria about “The Budget”. But it was only a moment. Soon the finance minister lapsed into the budget tradition of smoke and mirrors: comparing like with unlike, going beyond the facts and trying to offer a little bit for everybody.

It was in the end a strange exercise. At one level, Pranab Mukherjee seemed to give expression to the feeling in a section of the Congress Party that it owed its victory to its “aam aadmi” programmes and should therefore focus on them. Hence the (promised) expansion of welfare programmes, the willingness to put growth over the needs of fiscal fundamentalism and the unwillingness to do what the stock market expected from the Union Budget for 2009-10.

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