If Indian companies are to go global, find global partners accountable to their shareholders and laws that call for clean operations that are at least noiseless, if not quite squeaky and receive inexpensive capital from abroad, Indian politics has to clean itself up. While we are all proud of India's democracy, few of us bother to fund any political party. We are content to let parties fund themselves by mobilising funds as they traditionally have from the time of the freedom struggle when industrialists like G D Birla used to fund the Congress. But most such funding was informal, with no structured, transparent disclosure of who funded which party and to what extent.
This year’s budget is a bag of misplaced government spending priorities and misses some crucial challenges facing urban development. The last full Union budget of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government continues to be plagued with the idea that “the private capital will ameliorate some of the basic problems of India and that large capital-intensive technologies will usher in development, including inclusive development.” How fallacious is this argument? We have seen this in the past three decades. The structural difference brought in by Manmohan Singh’s budget in 1991 was to “shift India’s economy away from the hands of the government to the hands of private enterprise, and embraced free trade.
How come the government has shown sober responsibility rather than wanton populism in the last full Budget available to it before the 2024 General Election? We see many pundits struggle with this puzzle on television and in newspaper columns and either remain puzzled or conclude that this government stands tall, beyond the temptations of expedience to which ordinary mortals are prone.
The Economic Survey 2022-23 is an information provider with little analytical thrust, at least on labour-related matters. The Economic Survey (ES) 2022-23 prepared the ground for the focus points in the Union Budget 2023. The story on the labour front is as follows.
How do donations via electoral bonds funded by legal or illegal money help curb undue influence on policymakers? Electoral bonds provide an additional of such funds. The Union Government initiated the Electoral Bonds scheme, announced in the Union Budget 2017–18, on January 2, 2018. The aim was “to cleanse the system of political funding in the country”. While many other issues are also germane, the moot question is will this goal be achieved.
Few can vouch for the veracity or otherwise of Hindenburg’s research that raises serious allegations of wrongdoing against the Adani group. The present author certainly cannot. These charges could be accurate to varying degrees but that does not put Gautam Adani in the company of fly-by-night operators or the likes of arms brokers and others who profit purely from government patronage. Adani is a first-generation entrepreneur who has dreamed big, executed with excellence and has built chunks of the Indian economy’s essential infrastructure, whether ports, power plants, grain storage or renewable energy.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has come up with a Budget that did not deserve a thumbs down from the Nifty, which ended the day’s trading 0.26% lower. This was more on account of the troubles of the Adani Group and, by association, of public sector banks with exposure to the group. The big boost to capital expenditure — including grants in aid of capex; the increase in capex is Rs 3.2 lakh crore, to Rs 13.7 lakh crore — is welcome and suggests that the Budget is pro-growth. That pro-growth glow loses some sheen when we take into account the total size of the Budget. It has come down from 16% of GDP in 2021-22 to 15.3% in 2022-23 and is slated to fall further to 14.9% next fiscal year. This reflects the longstanding inability of the system to significantly increase the share of taxes in GDP — the only way to raise total expenditure is to borrow, which means that fiscal correction also brings down the size of total spending.