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Debate on General Budget 2005-06

Debate on General Budget 2005-06 

18 March 2005 

SHRI SHARAD ANANTRAO JOSHI (MAHARASHTRA): Mr. Vice-Chairman, Sir, firstly I must express my happiness at the generally high and elevated level of debate we have had in the House on the General Budget. I am also impressed by the fact that so many people have been able to understand and grasp what the contents of Budget are and I am, like a blind man, trying to find out what the elephant is like, am still searching and groping for what the Budget really means. For fifty four years since I became a student of economics and when the Budget used to be just about Rs.200 crores, I have been impressed by the voluminous documentation that is presented and the kind of plethora of promises that are made by every Finance Minister. 

              As years went by, I have seen parties come and go, Finance Ministers come and go. And I have realised that the Budgets are, in the modern day, the opium of the masses. Having spent the whole year in an unhappy manner, when the Budget comes, they start hoping for something good and they hope every time that something good has come till the next Budget comes; and they realise that their hands are as empty as they were one year back. 

              The changes that have taken place are about the food sufficiency. India has become food sufficient; longevity has improved; communications have improved. But the poor man continues to be, more or less, in the same position as he was fifty years back. Now, I do not feel enthused about any of the promises made by the Finance Minister and I was not enthused by the whole list of the projects that the Finance Minister announced because I found that he was really trying to hit three birds with the same kind of stone. Number one, of course, he has every right to hit at the NDA and show that his performance is better. But he was also trying, at the same time, to please his Leftist friends and at the same time undercut their constituency support with a view to the Kerala and West Bengal elections as well. The most important question is, if for 50 years the Finance Ministers have failed to deliver on both equity and stability, what chances has this Budget to give a better performance? 

              I think, the most important point is this. What are the modalities proposed for bringing the results? He talks of the outlays and outputs. And I think, the outlays and outputs are linked with the outlooks. What is the kind of outlook that you have for bringing about the execution of these projects? Fifty years back we talked of the paramountcy of the public sector. Then in 1991, when our present Prime Minister was the Finance Minister, I have a document that was brought out by the Finance Ministry at that time in 1992 where they severely criticised the limitations of the public sector and very clearly said that the job of the Government is to create an environment that would encourage enterprise, initiative and efficiency. Now after another 15 years, we find in paragraph 8 of the Budget speech - the basic philosophy of this Budget - we repeat once again the growth, stability and equity. But this time the decisive thing is decisive intervention by the State is once again the major instrument of policy. Now what has happened since 1991 when the Finance Ministry said that the Government is not an efficient way of getting things done. That we are now once again prepared to depend on the Government as a machinery of intervention. What has happened and the Finance Minister mentioned it in his budget was that we have made a shift from Jagdish Bhagwati to Amartya Sen. And what is trying to be done is that instead of saying that the Government is bad in all sectors and all fields, we are trying to find out justifications for the governmental activity in the field of environment, in the field of employment, in the field of health and in the field of education. The question is when do we come to know that this has failed again because I absolutely have no doubt that anything that depends on the Government machinery, the efficiency is bound to fail sooner rather than later. And in this case the concrete suggestion that I would like to make -- which I made to the Planning Commission when the Eighth Plan was being drafted -- was do not talk of just targets, also fix failure standards. If you are saying that you should have one crore hectares of land which will be with assured irrigation, also give us a figure that if we do not within five years reach even 20 lakhs, then we will admit that we have failed and we will take disciplinary action against those who were responsible. I think the Budget would start making some sense if we provide for failure standards and not just tempting people with lofty kind of practices that are attached with the Budget. Thank you.