New Delhi, Feb 29: Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram should be pleased with the initial reactions to his "populist budget" proposals for fiscal 2008-09, as he has in the run-up to next year's general elections, probably provided solutions or balm for every demand or complaint in each sector.
One cursory look at Friday's budget proposals suggests that while presenting his fifth consecutive budget and seventh overall, Chidambaram has catered to every section of society. He has made it farmer-friendly by waiving off loans worth Rs.60, 000 crore for small farmers (Rs.50, 000 crore worth of loans to small and marginal farmers and a settlement scheme for other farmers that would cost the exchequer another Rs.10, 000 crore).
He has made it defence sector friendly by hiking the defence budget by 10 per cent Rs.96, 000 crore to Rs.1, 05, 600 crore, e has proposed additional allocation for several social sector schemes, including education, health, job guarantee, urban renewal and rural development, and most importantly, raised the threshold of exemption for all income tax assesses from Rs.1, 10, 000 to Rs.1, 50, 000, and provided benefits to senior citizens.
But as far as the opposition is concerned, Chidambaram has hijacked their agenda and can do no right.
Take for example the waiving off of farm loans, the opposition stood up immediately and vociferously protested against the announcement, saying that Chidambaram had failed to acknowledge their role in putting pressure on the Government in the last few weeks on the subject of loans and mounting farmer suicides.
Proceeding in the Lower House of Parliament was stalled for several minutes over the issue before Speaker Somnath Chatterjee could prevail upon both sides to begin announcement and debate anew.
The opposition also said that increased allocations for the social sectors were an agenda that they had initiated when they were in power between 1998 and 2004, and was not something new. They also said that the hiking of the defence budget did not seem warranted.
It is a known fact that no Finance Minister has ever been able to please all and sundry with his budget projections. Almost all who occupy this prestigious Cabinet post spend almost a month of two interacting with various sections of society - be it industry, social sectors and farmers etc. to get their views on what the forthcoming budget should contain or be like.
Based on these views, projections are prepared without compromising on what is required to ensure both growth and development.