'The Budget is pedestrian and lacklustre'
N K P Salve
Some key indicators in the Economic Survey 1997-1998 paint an extremely dismal picture of the Indian economy. A very dynamic
and innovative Budget was needed to give a boost to India's moribund
Unfortunately, this Budget has fallen extremely short of such an
approach. At best, the Budget is pedestrian and lacklustre. It cannot
help revive the economy nor can it impart any buoyancy to the stockmarkets.
The most disconcerting feature of the Budget is the levy of additional
direct and indirect taxes of Rs.92.05 billion.
This will increase the inflationary pressure on the economy.
The additional levy on petrol is ill-conceived. Perhaps the taxes have been increased to neutralise the effect of sanctions.
The revenue deficit -- at 3 per cent of the GDP -- is very high. So is the fiscal deficit -- 5.6 per cent.
In 1994-95, the exchange of rupee-dollar was Rs 31.40 to a dollar.
On Monday, it reached a peak of Rs 41.80.
Something is drastically wrong with our economy. So much so that all-round economic growth in terms of GDP, agricultural production, food grain production, industrial production, exports is showing an alarming decline.
Therefore, unless drastic measures are taken to remedy all
these deficiencies, the dollar-rupee exchange rate cannot show
You must protect the country from going the South-East Asian countries way -- their economies have been crippled because of the unmanageable decline in
their exchange rates.
The exchange rate must be controlled by market forces but the
latter should not be allowed to so act as would be
detrimental to the interest of the country.
In a strong economy, the market forces, to say the least, cannot bring
about such deceleration in the value of the rupee. Therefore, my objection is
not to the market forces determining the
exchange rate, but the market forces
themselves manifesting a weak
On the basis of various expert opinions, it
seems that sanctions would have a
direct impact of not more than $ 1.5
billion to $ 2 billion in terms of
reduction in capital flows.
The package announced for NRIs indicates that some serious effort has been made to generate resources from this important source.
One has to see how the NRIs respond.
One hopes their patriotism comes to
Yes, the economy is in a bad shape. It is
the unavoidable outcome of a highly
controlled and regulated economy. If
we had undertaken economic reforms
in the late '70s or early '80s, when
China introduced such economic
reforms, the entire economic situation
would have been different.
I must concede that it is easier to sell
socialism at the hustings than making a free market economy acceptable in a
However, China's unipolar political system helped the country to
introduce economic reforms ruthlessly.
As for the opening of the insurance sector, competition in every service discipline
is the very basis of high productivity and efficiency. I would have
been happy if the sector was opened completely so that we get the best
advantage of technology and resources from the world's top-most insurance
It is fallacious to argue that opening the insurance sector to
foreign companies would be to the country's detriment. We can
always have adequate built-in protection to ensure that the large
funds generated by foreign insurance companies are used for India's
As for direct taxes, it is good that they have not been tinkered with.
If he had raised direct taxes, that would have spelt sheer
As it is, the additional levy of Rs 92.05 billion will have an
adverse impact. And, in the next few months, maybe we will start touching
So the tax payers may, at best, thank the finance minister for not increasing the direct taxes though the savings in terms of purchasing power would be reduced because of inflation.
N K P Salve, former Union minister and chairman of the Ninth Finance Commission, spoke on the Rediff Budget Chat.