Budget 2010 is being widely praised in the media and by business leaders as an “inclusive” budget, a “budget with lot of takeaways”. But this is not true. If all the measures of the budget are analysed, it is clear that the general nature of the budget has not changed – as an instrument to redistribute wealth in favour of the big business houses, exporters, traders and speculators. Expenditure on education is still around 3.2% of GDP, much less than the established norm of 6%. The expenditure on health is just 1.45% of GDP, whereas the global norm is atleast 5%. So, where does most of the money go if they don’t go to important sectors such as education, health and rural development? The Finance Minister has allocated 1,47,000 crores for the defence sector, including 60,000 crores for capital expenditure. As compared to this, the plan allocation for school education is only around 27,000 crores and that for health around 22,000 crores.
The entire budget process is led by big industry which decides the priorities for the country. For them the priorities are uninterrupted growth of profits which has to be ensured by subsidies to industry, tax and excise waivers, concessions to exporters and so on. It is estimated that last year such concessions amounted to 60,000 crores! If people had a say in budget making then the priorities would have been reducing inflation, increasing availability of food at affordable prices by revamping the public distribution system and increasing investments in such productive sectors as education, health, drinking water, livelihood and so on. There are mechanisms for big industry associations such as FICCI and CII to hold consultations with the Finance Minister and dominate the budget making process. But there are no mechanisms for the people to play a decisive role in budget making. If there were mechanisms then the approach of the budget and the allocations would have been very different. Instead of focusing on GDP growth, the budget would have addressed human development, illiteracy, poverty, rising prices and unemployment. So, the nature of this year’s budget has not changed a wee bit form its predecessors, call it “inclusive” or “popular”. The budget still remains an instrument to preserve the existing inequalities and direct the wealth generated by the people further into the pockets of big business houses and multinationals. It is one more reminder that people should fight to install mechanisms that can help them to play an important role, in fact a decisive role, in policy making for the country.