Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Budgets from the 1950s

The first of a promising series of articles by Vikram Doctor takes a look at India's Budgets from 1947-60. This period saw at least four finance ministers: R.K. Shanmukham Chetty, John Mathai, C.D. Deshmukh and T.T. Krishnamachari. The budgeting careers of all these gentlemen ended through resignations. Deshmukh's tenure was the longest: he presented six Budgets in all.

This period saw the setting up of the Planning Commission (whose wrangles with the Finance Ministry eventually led to Mathai's resignation), and its increasing hold over India's economy. The tax rates kept going up, and new taxes were introduced: Wealth Tax and Expenditure Tax. The fifties were a time of big dreams and bigger projects: dams, steel plants, and heavy industry. And they were also a time of growing ties between India and the former Soviet Union and its satellites.

All in all, the piece has some fascinating history, as seen through the prism of Budget speeches. Do read the whole thing. I can't wait for the next article in the series!