Tata-Dhan Academy: PDM

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Programme in Development Management

Budget Watch and Dialogue, 2011-12

Today, development practitioners, bankers, scholars, media professionals, and the public gathered to watch a live telecast of the 2011-12 Union Budget and engage in a reflective discussion on the development perspective of the budget. The event, organized by Tata-Dhan Academy, is the fifth annual event of its kind. It serves three purposes: educating participants about the budget, analysing the budget and offering suggestions, and disseminating the outcomes of the discussion so it can benefit a larger audience.

The event comprised a presentation by Dr. Damodar Jena, Tata-Dhan Academy, to raise budget literacy and give a retrospect of budgetary trends over the past decade. This was followed by the live telecast of the 2011-12 Union Budget presented by Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee. Finally, participants shared their views, appreciation, and concern about the budget.

Mr. Kalyanasundaram, Chief Executive of INAFI (International Network of Alternative Financial Institutions) shared that it was important that we try to make sense of the numbers presented in the budget, particularly by looking at the thrust of the previous recent budgets and the consistency in the allocations and implementations of the previous budgets. He acknowledged that the budget appears to be a response to the development situation.

Dr. Muthuraja, Associate Professor (Economics), American College, described the budget as a moderate budget. He pointed out that the budget addressed the ageing population, but not youth. As India has the most youth of all countries, he felt this was a glaring omission. Also missing was a forecasting perspective; much of the budget seemed to be presented with a short-term vision and mission. He suggested that we monitor how well the benefits of the budget reach to the common folk; for instance, the special fund for women SHGs is helpful, but it needs to be ensured that these funds reach women in rural areas, perhaps with the support of non-government organisations. Several of these perspectives were also expressed by Mr. Swaminathan, DHAN Foundation, who also added that the power sector was not mentioned, despite the importance of the power sector for industrial development.

Ms. Vidhya Suresh, Professor, Thiagaraja School of Management, reinforced this concern of implementation and monitoring, particularly considering how much money has been earmarked for different sectors. Several of the budget components were appreciated, including support to hand-loom weavers, fodder development programme, warehousing, elder support, rural education, and innovation research and development.

Mr. Venkatasamy, DHAN Foundation, pointed out that the budget is about prioritization of resources across different sectors. He expressed support for the reduction of tax on agriculture machinery and micro-irrigation but also noted that there was a contradiction in subsidizing fertilizers while also being concerned about organic farming and soil health.

During the afternoon discussion, students from Tata-Dhan Academy, American College, Arulanadar College, Fatima College, Lady Doak College, and Thiagarajar School of Management were engaged in a lively reflective session on the morning’s speech. Dr. Muthuraja addressed additional issues such as inequality of wages and labour, the right to work, the influence of media control on budgetary decisions, and the state of agricultural productivity. He also expressed concern over what he called “unemployment militancy”, the extreme numbers of unemployed youth. Other participants expressed concern about inappropriate budgetary allocation under schemes like NREGA, which need better monitoring systems, and problems of food inflation. The problem of implementation was further stressed by numerous participants, but Mr. Kalyanasundaram also pointed out that India’s strong democratic system does allow for reflective participatory contributions from individuals and non-government organisations, making it possible for us to not only highlight problems, but also to offer our ideas about how these problems can be addressed.

Participants were reminded that the budget document is available online and were urged to look into the budget in detail, rather than drawing all conclusions from the budget presentation alone.

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Filed under: General TDA, PDM 11,

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