The day of the arrival of the financial Magi has come and we are aquiver to see what is in store when they open their gifts. But we are even more anxious to listen to the quotations which punctuate the budget speech, hoping against all hope that it won’t be from the usual suspects, Tagore who will definitely feature, Thiruvalluvar or even Keynes. No, given that our fortunes are likely to go downhill after the euphoric rush when taxes are cut by a fraction, we wish that the speech could at least bring us more joy than past ones have.
Why should budget speeches be surrounded by gravity much in the manner of the Pope addressing the faithful? Let’s hear it from George W Bush who said, “It’s clearly a budget. It’s got a lot of numbers in it.” Now, of course, our finance ministers are not quite as simplistic as Dubya. But surely we can ask as in the words of Spike Milligan, “All I ask is the chance to prove that money can’t make me happy.” While finance ministers in the past have asked us to spend, spend, spend, they have not meant that we should go out and go overboard. Clearly, they could have taken a lesson from Oscar Wilde who said, “Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.” And that is something we don’t lack even though we barely have the means to stay alive. But that does not mean that we don’t hanker after reconciling our gross habits with our net income to mangle a saying by Errol Flynn. So it is clear that we can only look heavenwards for some good news on the fiscal front if the finance minister has no goodies for us.
If only Woody Allen’s exhortation asking God for a sign like making a huge deposit in our names in a Swiss bank were to come true, our faith in budgets would be restored. For days now we will be grappling with figuring out the figures. And, on a tight budget at that.