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Snooze permanently

If things work to plan, India's finance minister may not have much to do in a budget 20 years from now. Columnist Manas Chakravarty comes with this FM tune for 2031.

india Updated: Jul 24, 2011 00:14 IST

My fellow neo-liberals, Howdy. This is the first time we're holding the budget speech in the Parliament swimming pool, but I would like to remind you it's still a solemn occasion, in spite of my wearing swimming trunks, so stop talking and listen.

Forty years ago, in 1991, the greatest finance minister we ever had, Dr Manmohan Singh, set us firmly on the path of economic growth by starting the process of liberalisation. Reforms continued in fits and starts and I'd like to remind you that even twenty years ago, in 2011, we had a lot of poverty and a huge fiscal deficit.

However, all of you know how a second wave of reforms relaxed foreign investment rules and scrapped restrictive labour laws, ushering in huge increases in productivity in industry and shifting lots of manufacturing industries to India. The high growth allowed us to balance our books and replace all subsidies with cash payouts for the needy. The balanced budget lead to lower interest rates and a GDP growth of 12% over the last decade, wiping out poverty.

They say India grows when the government sleeps, which is why we decided to snooze permanently. We downsized government by scrapping steel, telecom and half a dozen other redundant ministries. We also sold off plenty of government land, bringing down prices and leading to affordable housing for all. The net result was that we Parliamentarians now have hardly anything to do apart from beautifying our constituencies.

But you already know all this. By the way, will the MP from Allahabad please stop splashing water on the MP from Kanpur? I know she's enjoying it, but could you please frolic after my speech is over?

What was it I was going to say? Ah, I almost forgot, now for the actual budget. It's a lot of dull and boring figures. The main point is that there's a budget surplus. I wish to announce that next fiscal we'll be selling off the only government company we still have, preferably to a foreign investor. I have so little work as finance minister I don't need a minister of state. He's hereby sacked.

Waiter, could you bring me a Martini, please, I'm unaccustomed to such a long speech, my throat's a bit dry.

Next fiscal I plan to spend on greening the cities and on saving the whales. For the aam aadmi who has been working so hard for that 12% growth, I have decided to remove all duties on Scotch.

It's now time for the quotation. Manmohan Singh quoted Victor Hugo, the author of Les Miserables, probably because those were miserable times. Instead, I will quote the King of Hearts in 'Alice in Wonderland', "Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop." Since I have come to the end, I will now stop. See you all at the next budget.