How Mr. Finance Minister, pray tell?

'Instead, we had honey bees collecting nectar without harming plants. We had praise for the "vision" of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who 40 years ago nationalized India's banks as if in astute preparation for the very financial crisis we are now in. We had a new university in Chandigarh, capital of the Punjab and Haryana (hello, education reform?) We had Mahatma Gandhi. We had measures to put "a smile on the faces of the Green Brigade." We had the 73-year-old finance minister joking that he didn't want to dent his popularity with the ladies. (With all due respect, sir….)

And then, the piece de resistance, said with a dramatic flourish: The announcement, honorable ladies and gentlemen of the Lok Sabha, that for the first time the Indian government will spend more than 10 lakh crore rupees (about $208 billion) as if that was what counted the most, not how the money would be spent or how it would be raised. Sorry, but that's not a boast worthy of an aspiring global superpower (which India justifiably is) but of a second-tier developing nation.

Clearly, what all that cash will mostly be spent on is the kind of populist endeavors that you'd expect from a government that is running for re-election, not one that was just returned to office. The targets of returning to 9% growth, spending 9% of Gross Domestic Product on infrastructure development by 2014, and creating 12 million jobs a year for the nation's youth all are worthy goals. But the speech was woefully vague on how any of them would be achieved. Instead, it delivered a mind-numbing list of already-problematic government welfare programs that are now about to get massive injections of funds. But don't worry, the government is going to "strengthen and improve the regulatory framework for the effective delivery of services." How, pray tell?'

- Paul Beckett, 'A Budget for a Second-Tier Developing Nation'.


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