Expert Zone

Straight from the Specialists

Budget 2014 is only the first step

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Much was expected from Budget 2014/15 without realizing that India’s economy has its own rhythm, which changes only by small degrees if left to itself. That is why big-ticket reforms are necessary to quicken the pace. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had reason to move forward with caution and make changes only at the fringes.

Labourers work at the construction site of a multi-level parking in ChandigarhNo wonder then that P. Chidambaram almost welcomed the budget as if it was a carryover from his own budget. Even the increase in shareholding by foreign investors in the insurance and defence sector, which Jaitley has announced, had been on the previous government’s agenda. Now that the opposition has shrunk, the Modi government took the first opportunity to do that, though with conditions.

The reason for carrying forward the agenda of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government could possibly be that the new government had little time to consider the nuances of any new approach to policies and the apprehension that any radical departure from previous budgets may see the repeat of opposition behavior in earlier parliament sessions.

Not that significant changes haven’t been made, but they are not so visible. The budget speech is silent on the cap on LPG cylinders, decontrol of diesel subsidies or direct benefit transfers, which are included in other budget papers.

Pitfalls of the food security bill

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The food security bill will be introduced in the current budget session of parliament, more because of its populist appeal than any economic urgency. Even when the bill was discussed by the Cabinet, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar reportedly had reservations. They had valid reasons.

Subsidized food distribution is nothing new. Already 400 million people avail of it from over 500,000 fair price shops. What the bill intends is to widen the scope of the present scheme and cover two-thirds of the population with five kg of grain per beneficiary at nominal rates.

Budget 2013: Time for a responsible budget

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has promised a “responsible” budget this time around. According to Webster’s dictionary, “responsibility” is associated with a legal or moral accountability, reliability, trustworthiness in relation with some burden.

The rare earths distraction

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

The U.S., EU and Japan are suing China in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), calling Chinese export quotas on rare earth elements an illegal trade practice.

The burden of subsidies

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

At the Indian media meet at Cannes, the economist in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh came out spontaneously when he said the prices of petroleum products should find their ‘market level’. For a time at least he ignored political compulsions.

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