इसका व्यावहारिक अर्थ है देश में बुनियादी बदलाव। कुछ साल पहले तक जिन कदमों की लोक-लुभावन कहकर उपेक्षा की जाती थी, आज वे महत्वपूर्ण नजर आने लगे हैं। ममता बनर्जी के रेल बजट में गढ़ चिरौली तक ट्रेन ले जाने की बात सिर्फ प्रतीकात्मक नहीं थी। किसी अखबार ने कृरपोरेट सेक्टर का रोना नहीं रोया है और न सामाजिक क्षेत्र का मज़ाक उड़ाया है। अलबत्ता काले धन को लेकर कुछ करने की हिदायत ज्यादातर ने दी है। भारतीय राजनीति का पैराडाइम बदल रहा है। यह इस बार के बजट का संकेत है।
The nod to direct cash transfers for fuel and fertiliser subsidy also deserves a thumbs-up. But why not cover food? Well-designed delivery systems must combat leakages and waste in all pro-poor schemes, backed by financial inclusion and UID projects. Little mention is made of subsidy reduction, though welfare must start aiming less at dole than empowerment. Higher spends on health, education and infrastructure are welcome, skilled manpower and capacity-building being key to sustaining growth. But non-negotiable expenditure under these heads surely demand better targeting and even moratoriums on others. Mega-schemes like food security need better preparation to be executed well. And, be it schools, hospitals or basic amenities, poor service delivery, not lack of money to throw around, hobbles efforts.
India must nuance its approach to inflation, also issuing from rising demand in a high-growth country. Food subsidy, then, is less a solution than boosted agricultural productivity and marketing avenues. The FM creditably asks all states to get cracking on APMC reform. To overhaul logistics, he also makes cold chains and storage an infrastructure sub-sector to attract funds. But retail liberalisation should've been the big-ticket item here, as an investor-friendly message at a time FDI is on the slide. More so, since the passing reference to putting financial sector reform on the legislative agenda won't overly enthuse investors.
Overall, there's a little something for everybody, from handloom weavers and senior citizens to environmentalists and foreign institutional investors. Taxpayers get relief. Consumers await cheaper mobiles and home loans. Farmers get interest-related subsidy on debt repayment and easier access to credit. Industry is pledged incentives for manufacturing and IT. Small micro-finance borrowers are promised protection. Markets smile with mutual funds accessing foreign funds. And FIIs get raised investment limit in corporate bonds, a fillip to infrastructure. Yet, please-all intentions notwithstanding, the big ideas are missing. If vision makes or breaks budgetary blueprints, Budget 2011-12 disappoints. A fast-growing nation with big dreams needs more than muted signals on reform.