Friday, February 29, 2008

Mr. Speaker, Sir ...

It's just a bunch of stray observations under the garb of live blogging of the Budget Speech. Will look for stuff on S&T, higher education, research, etc, and anything else that sounds interesting.

11:00. The speech begins. PC takes pride in presenting his fifth consecutive Budget under the UPA regime. Also mentions 12 consecutive quarters of impressive GDP growth rate of over 8 percent. The first 4 years of UPA has seen 8.8 percent growth.

11:05. Lots of thousands of crores are being mentioned. My head spins.

11:10. PC quotes from a book on Indira Gandhi. So soon in his budget speech!

Education budget will go up by over 20 percent. SSA, Mid-day meal program get big increases.

Some 600 crores for Model Schools. Elitism!

National Merit cum Means scheme. 1 lakh scholarships. Corpus goes up now to 15,00 crores.

11:15. Knowledge is power! 1 new IIM, 3 IISERs, and 1 IIIT were set up. 16 Central Universities, 3 new IITs, 2 new IISERs will be set up. And several more, too.

Innovation for ... (INSPIRE) Scholarships for encouraging students to study and stay in science. 85 crores.

Interconnect all educational research institutions. 100 crores to the Ministry of Information Technology (MIT) for the National Knowledge Network.

11:25. NREGA gets more money (16,000 crores), with a promise to meet any additional demand.

Potable water system for each school in water deficit areas. 200 Crores.

11:30. A bunch of interesting proposals targeting the Minorities. Predictably, some noise emanates from the Opposition, but dies down soon.

Immediately following this, PC is talking about gender budgeting. 54 departments, apparently, are doing this. PC points to the Budget documents for more details.

Child specific programs receive some 34,000 crores.

11:35. Lots of agriculture related issues are being discussed and addressed. HUGE amounts of money (lakhs of crores!) are being bandied about. Sadly, I have no idea about many of the things PC's talking about. I better shut up, for now.

11:40. Still more agriculture.

11:44. Indebtedness of farmers and Radhakrishna Committee report are mentioned. PC's tone softens. Debt waiver scheme is announced. Lots of cheers, countered by lots of noise as well. Even before details are out!

Here are the details. Agricultural loans are covered (more noise/cheers; Speaker admonishes them with "Is this the kind of respect you show to our farmers?"). Marginal and small farmers will get a complete waiver of these loans. (More noise. Serious noise. Speaker: "This cannot be allowed. Please sit down. ... What is this, you are not listening? Kya baat hai ... This is not responsible behaviour!")

11:50. Still a lot of noise. PC has read just two sentences in the last 7 minutes.

60,000 crores for debt waiver scheme. PC promises that its implementation will be done in the three months.

11:55. Moving on ... Subject turns to investments. FDI is about 12 billion US dollars.

12:00 noon. PC announces his intent to get manufacturing to grow at double digit rates. This is followed by announcements about Power, Highways, Coal, IT, BPO, industries. Textiles and handloom sectors follow. Again, I know very little about what the issues are.

12:05. PC is talking about banks now. Time to go quiet again ...

12:10. Demographic dividend. Youth need kills, if we are to reap its benefits. PC's talking about Skills Development Mission, upgrading ITIs, etc.

12:14. Public Distribution System. Haryana and Chandigarh will introduce smart cards for the delivery of PDS. Presumably, this is an experimental scheme.

12:16. Defence gets some 105,000 crores. Up from some 90,000 crores. This is accompanied by promised for more.

Global warming and green technologies are being discussed. No specific proposals.

Sixth Pay Commission will submit its proposals within the next month! Yay!

12:18. University of Mysore, Delhi University and another institution in Maharashtra (I didn't get it) will get a special grant, just like the 100 crore grant announced by him in 2005 for IISc.

12:23. For 2007-08, Revenue Deficit is at 1.4 percent against 1.5. Fiscal Deficit is 3.1 against 3.3 percent.

Projected revenues will be some 600,000 crores. RD is projected at 1 percent, and FD at and 2.5 percent.

12:25. Taxes!

Tax/GDP ratio is 12.5 percent for the current year. PC credits information systems. He also credits his luck!

Lots of boring stuff on reducing customs duty on this or that. Phosphoric acid will attract a customs duty of 5 percent as opposed to 7.5 percent. I'm so happy!

12:30. Helicopter simulators will attract a smaller duty now. Fantastic.

12:32. Excise duties. More details. Small cars will attract 12 percent from 16 % now. So will two wheelers. Wow!

Nifty is down by some 1 %.

12:35. Services taxes. More new services will come under the tax net.

12:37. Direct taxes time! Boldness pays. Moderation begets compliance. Fairness begets ...

Rs. 150,000 is now the exemption limit. Everyone -- every tax payer -- benefits by at least Rs. 4,000. For women, the exemption limit is 1.8 lakhs.

1.5 lakhs to 3 lakhs will attract a 10% tax. For 3 to 5 lakhs, it's 20 percent. It's 30% for incomes above 5 lakhs.

Wow, this is BIG. I can see NIFTY start to zoom from now on.

In all the excitement, I missed some announcement about incentives for outsourcing of R&D activities.

12:45. Short term capital gains tax go to 15 percent. Wow. This is bad for NIFTY!

PC announces some complex fine tuning on Securities Transaction Tax.

Some stirring words about India regaining its old glory, when it, together with China, commanded nearly a half of the world's GDP. Clearly, we are nearing the end. It's time for a Kural now.

Oops. Those stirring words are not his. They are from Jawaharlal Nehru! Oh, well.

12:49. There it is. A Kural about the mark of good governance.

12:50. The end.

* * *

Okay, the Budget documents are where the real action should now move to, but they are not up yet. Until they are up, so long!


  1. Bruno said...

    Click here for the FM's Speech

  2. Sriram said...

    Abi, you were amused by the announced drop in customs duty on phosphoric acid. I suspect it's a mild sop to the cola drink industry. Coke contains it and so, I suspect, does Pepsi.