A Budget to Make the Corporates Happy

02 March 2017
THE central budget for 2017-18 combined with the railway budget presented by the finance minister Jaitly on 1st February has made the corporate forces extremely happy as their responses reveal. Though the biggest financial operation taken up during the last three months was the demonetization of the 86% of the currency in circulation, which has devastated vast masses and decelerated the economy of the vast majority, no analysis, even a report of how much of the currency was returned, is given in the budget speech by the finance minister. It is a criminal omission as even now many of the ATMs are not functioning, there are many reports of presence of vast quantities of new 500 and 2000 denomination fake notes and continuing crisis in the finance sector. On the whole, the announcement of opening doors more widely for the FDI, removal of all curbs for FDI-FII inflows through tax haven routes, all round promotion of digitization, public-private-participation (PPP) in more areas, privatization of the remaining public sector enterprises more speedily etc have gladdened the native corporate class and the MNCs. All hitherto neo-liberal benefits for the private sector are going to be further enhanced. At the same time, there is no mention of what happened to the promise of 20 million new jobs every year by Modi in the budget, especially when demonetization has destroyed more than 2 million employments during last two months! No enhancement of funds for education and health. There is going to be total cut down of all welfare policies and subsidies in the name of providing Rs. 1000 as Universal Basic Income (UBI) alternative for targeted 80%! But the banks are allowed to write off more bad loans of the corporate houses as Non Performing Assets (NPA). At the same time no plans for getting backs these bad loans of the elite class.

As far as the Railways are concerned, though the privatization started by the UPA government and speeded up during last two years under Modi have led to sharp increase in major train accidents, they are not even mentioned seriously; on the contrary there are enough hints that the privatization will be speeded up in all areas under railways. At a glance, this central budget will intensify privatization, commercialization and elitization of all sectors, and further impoverish the masses. Modi intends to impose these ultra rightist economic moves agenda under the sledge hammer of communalization! Modinomics is to serve the Trumponomics!

The Economic Survey tabled in Parliament, a report card of the economic performance of FY17, says that a Universal Basic Income that reduces poverty to 0.5 percent would cost between 4-5 percent of GDP! While expressing concern at this 4-5% of GDP for the UBI, the Survey do not even mention about 10 times of this amount due from the corporate which was written off as bad loans or Non Performing Assets by the public sector banks, or how much tax arrears of the elites are written off. After cutting down all former welfare policies and subsidies, the Universal Basic Income (UBI) alternative of providing Rs 1000 for the poorest 80% is proposed as a powerful idea, worthy of serious discussion! The UBI is suggested as an alternative to the various subsidies and social welfare schemes that aim to reduce poverty. The demand for a minimum wage of Rs. 22,000 and implementation of an unemployment wage of at least 50% of it for all unemployed demanded by the progressive forces is not even discussed in the Survey.

The Survey points out that there are “number of implementation challenges” due to which there is a risk that UBI would become an add-on to, rather than a replacement of, current anti-poverty and social programs, which would make it fiscally unaffordable. The Survey talks about the UBI only as a powerful idea “whose time even if not ripe for implementation, is ripe for serious discussion.” At the same time, without any mercy, justifications are fielded to write off universal public distribution system of food grains, allotments for education and healthcare, implementation of housing for all etc. On the whole the Survey is another attempt to promote the corporate forces on which the budget focusses, while impoverishing the 80%, who are downtrodden. 
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