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 If I were the Finance Minister

By Shivaji Sarkar

No that is not what my job is. I know finance ministers are never praised. Even for rights they are criticized and for wrongs lambasted. In reality, I feel that most finance ministers do not understand the bureaucratic statistical jugglery. I also do not understand that.

Most finance ministers are considered wise men – the right hand man of the prime minister. I certainly do not qualify for it. But still having reviewed government finances and analyzing it to those who do not know at all, I feel now every housewife should help the finance minister prepare the budget. I have heard that wives of many finance ministers, including that of Manmohan Singh, were unhappy with the budgets presented by their husbands.

I told my wife, Anju, to help me in that process. She said, “Please stop doing that. Except bringing lots of raddi, budget has not ever helped me”. That’s a terse statement for onerous job that fills half the newspaper spaces and television news time through the year. Are they all producing raddis?. The budget has no sanctity. My better half says, “It has only one sanctity. After each budget, problems go up, processes become complicated and prices of commodities rise. After a budget I buy less than what I bought for the last one year”.

Should the government then stop making the budget?, I ask. She says, “No. Its ingredients remain the same. Why do not you standardize to bring out the budgetary statement in an automatic fashion”.

How is it possible? She brings some of the old budget papers without the cover pages and asks, “Tell me which years’ budget these are?” I glance through and cannot make out. Figures look so similar. The style has not changed and every budget claims better days – ache din ayenge. My wife knows better than me that she was happier when salary and income was far less than what I, my son or daughter has today. I tend to agree with her.

But she throws up a challenge. “You claim to know so much about the budget. You have been worst critics of finance ministers. Why do not you prepare one for me? At least prove me wrong”. She even threatened like the tax man and said, “If you don’t I would stop preparing food for the family”.

That was a bit too much. Having suffered under the hands of finance ministers, and having starved often, I did not want the children to suffer.

With a glum face, that is how I have seen most finance ministers, I sit down to prepare the onerous national duty.

I write :

 

  • I shall abolish income-tax.

 

She asked me why? I told her at least I can by my lunch, which I often forgo. It would also save me from taking loans at high interest to pay for my granddaughter’s primary education.

She was furious. “Do you want the government to starve”, she asks me like a combination of a capitalist and communist. I feebly tell her, “The government would not be a bit poorer. Of course, many tax officers would lose a lot. They would lose their jam and butter. The government could do well to sack at least two-thirds of them and save over Rs 2 lakh crore – more than Rs 1.75 lakh crore that I-T brings.

It would also save lakhs of people, who are being harassed, despite having paid what they could”. She says, “I may agree with you. But why should the I-T officer and his gang agree. You do not know the dynamics of dealings”. I said, “You are right but prime minister wants a clean India that and I want to help him”.

 

  • Abolish tax deducted at source on bank depositCursing me she said, “Government should be honest and should not loot poor man’s money”. I felt she was speaking sense.

 

    1. Anju said, “That is sensible. I have lost much. But I can somehow bear it. But do you know my poor maid complained that she lost sums for keeping her money in bank. I have advised her not to put money in the bank”. This was my turn to be furious and even call names. I said, “You have done great disservice to the nation. If people would not put money in banks where would the government get money to borrow and run the administration? Most government servants would not get their salary either”.

 

  • Abolish highway tollShe said, “It seems you are right though I do not understand what fiscal deficit is”. I told her, “It means government borrows my money and asks me to pay more to feed the corrupt contractors”. She yelled, “Is that so? The prime minister must abolish it and make travel free as per constitutional guarantee”.

 

    1. She said, “Cannot you think of except abolition?” She was not wrong. I argued, “Do you know each time you pay for patrol, government steals Rs 2 as road cess. There is almost Rs 1 lakh fund. It is not being utilized or being utilized to reduce government’s fiscal deficit. In addition, we are being forced to pay toll on highways and expressways. Do not you remember, earlier we used to go out on drives? Last time you yourself said that it has become unaffordable. Let’s stop it. Besides, it makes vegetables, food grain and all other items expensive”.

 

  • End Education cess  

 

    1. Before she could ask, I tell her, the government is charging cess to for education. But do you know the education shops have been sold to private looters, sorry educators. They are bleeding us. Why should I pay this cess? She said, “I think you are right. My father used to say that schooling was so affordable. Its quality was also good. If the government cannot do its duty, why should it levy any charge?”

 

  • Make agriculture fundamental of economyThis was a bit too much for someone, who was steeped in Gandhism, as is our prime minister. I said, “If kisan would not till the land where would you get your basmati rice, MP Sona wheat, the delicious fruits and vegetables, which you love the most. Do you know over 75 crore people of the 125 crore population still subsist on farming? No industry can give them jobs. If kisan does not do farming, no industry would give a job to turn him into a babu. He would come to the city with begging bowl. Would you like that?” She says, “You are right”.

 

    1. Anju yelled, “You would remain in the medieval ages. I know how zamindars in my village used to look down upon the kisans. They are rustics, do not have understanding. If their land is used for industry so many jobs can be created and kisans could live like babus”.

 

  • Strengthen RupeeEnds

 

  1. I told her I want to do many more but today I would stop by starting a process to make Rupee stronger so that whenever I go abroad, I do not have to buy the firangi dollar. I can pay all bills in Rupee. She said, “You are aswadeshi brat. What would a strong Rupee do? It would make our exports expensive and nobody would buy Indian products. How would you manage current account deficit”. I said, “Darling, do not worry. Stronger rupee means Indians would have power to buy goods and fuel cheap from world market. Your forex outgo would be less. And about exports I am hearing the same arguments since US president Lyndon B Johnnson befooled former prime minister Indira Gandhi with this argument in1965 and forced her to devalue rupee for the first time. Then rupee rose from Rs 4.50 to Rs 7.50 to a dollar and now at over Rs 62, but the argument has not changed. Please do not worry, a stronger rupee would bring in more foreign currency. India would become the world market hub and the best place to live”. She nodded.

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