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Budget Blues

Critics are still going hammer and tongs at our finance minister P Chidambaram’s presentation last week. Renuka Bisht gives us some interesting budget antics from around the world
Hindustan Times | By Renuka Bisht
UPDATED ON MAR 07, 2008 09:29 PM IST

South Africa: Finance minister since 1996, Trevor Andrew Manuel is known for quirky budget presentations. In 2003, he handed out ripe red plums to all the MPs, explaining that these stood for the fruit of liberty having ripened in the country. Next year, he went even further and gave out whole trees as “a call to South Africans... a call that if your children need shade, plant a tree now”.

USA: Back when he was first running for president, George W. Bush famously responded to one fiscal query from the press: “It's clearly a budget. It's got a lot of numbers in it.” He has since kept up the good work of demystifying complex documents for common folks. Consider, “this morning my administration released the budget numbers for fiscal 2006. These budget numbers are not just estimates; these are the actual results for the fiscal year.”

UK: The country's budget is delivered by its chancellor, who is the only person allowed to enjoy alcohol in the Chamber. Gladstone and Churchill took full advantage of this concession, the former indulging in an egg and sherry mixture and the latter sticking to a more staid brandy. Gordon Brown, who has now graduated from being a mere chancellor to being the PM, austerely stuck to water during his 11 budgetary presentations. Scottish water, by the way.

Canada: This is a classic example of the vast gap between budgetary claims and grass root realities. Last year's 2007 budget for British Columbia gave top billing to a $250 million Housing Endowment Fund for people most in need, like the homeless and the elderly. One year later, it turns out that most of the monies disbursed so far have gone to a research facility promoted by a fire fighters association. Result: a flaming row indeed.

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