While as lot of experts have given their views on the budget, so far nobody has definitely said whether it is a good budget or a bad budget. So I asked the veteran business and financial correspondent about it.
The veteran correspondent was sitting at the Press Club bar. I ordered two runs on rocks and asked him: “Would you describe the budget as one where belts have to be tightened or where belts may be loosened?”
The veteran held the glass close to his ear, shook it and heard the ice rattle, consumed the rum, and said: “The hike in LPG and sugar prices would mean that housewives would have to tighten their belts, figuratively speaking, of course.”
“Then it is a tighten-belts budget,” I said, ordering two rums with Thums Ups.
“I would not say that,” the correspondent said. “The reduction of the price of kerosene by ten cent is a define indication that belts may be comfortably loosened at lest three notches, perhaps, even four.”
“Ah, then it is a looson-belts budget.” I said.
“Kindly do not put words in my mouth,” the corresponed said, downing his rum-and-Thums Up. “You cannot loosen you belt if you have to pay through you nose for colour TVs, VCRs, VCPs, Acs. Not only do you have to tighten the belt, but you have to buy a new and smaller belt.”
“That’s clear enough,” I said. “It is a tighten-your-belt budget, as expected from the finance minister and feared by the opposition.”
“I do not know how you have come to that conslusion,” the veteran business correspondent said. “A budget that exempts excise duty on butter, tea, coffee, cheese, edible oils automatically involves a liberal dose of loosening of belts. The whole country can loosen its belt and start inhaling.”
“Then you are saying it is a loosen-the-nation’s belt budget,” I said, ordering two rums and Limcas (Limca…Limca-a-a).
“I am saying nothing of the sort,” the financial correspondent said, gulping down his rum-and-Limca. “With a rise in excise duty rates on cigarettes, biddis, Paan Parag, which are expected to fetch as much as Rs. 337 crore, the time has come to righten belts.”
“Ah, ha! Then are tighten belts,” I said. You could not be more clear than that.”
“With do charge in the structure of income tax, wealth tax and diesel rates, and with exercise duty on two wheelers reducted, we do not tighten belts, we loosen them.”
“I am a little confused,” I said. “Just tell me, do I tighten my belt or do I loosen it.”
“That would depend,” the veteran business and financial correspondent said. “If you are with the World Bank, then you tighten your belt, but if you are with the IMF, then you loosen it.”