10 Mar 10 Union Budget 2010: Much ado about nothing
Another budget come and gone. Now we can all get back to business!
If ever there was a financial or economic equivalent of an IPL final or a Femina Miss India, it would probably be the Indian budget.
First, for weeks, the media “builds” up interest, by inviting a variety of soothsayers to tell us what will happen on Budget day. This motley crowd of future-gazers (comprising analysts, experts, and many others) is complemented by the lobbyists, who pitch for benefits for their industry.
And the media circus – channels, pink papers, white papers, web sites, bloggers, and all other such – rolls on. There is some great pre-budget build-up, with the Economic Survey and the inevitably farcical Railway budget. And then, it’s d-day, the Union Budget.
There is a pattern, and a plot. First a long, and mostly boring speech. This is punctuated by cheers or jeers, the occasional melodrama of respected parliamentarians storming a notional well that contains no water. This goes on for a couple of hours, and then the bad guys walk out.
Much is made of this, with politicians of all hues scrambling to get in sound bytes, even as the TV channels are only too ready to let them. Many other experts and professional interviewees are trotted in front of the audience, each with his or her macro or micro analysis. Naturally, this is all correlated with the behaviour of stock or bond prices immediately following the great speech.
As usual, expectations are low, so the government gets good scores from all the bigwigs. After all, they did well, considering the “political compulsions”! Opposition MPs continue to misbehave in parliament, stage protests on the streets and provide more fodder for the media grist. A week or so later, the post-budget rehash is complete, and our remotes help us navigate to the next “hot” topic.
And so the cycle repeats. Not very much is expected. Not very much is done. Not very much is announced, and not very much is the result.
So why make such a big deal? I understand that governments (like housewives, businessmen, industrialists, shopkeepers, farmers, and all variants of humankind) need to make budgets. But why the hoopla, especially when promises are rarely kept? And so little actually happens!
Or is all this a fallout of the race for TRPs?
Taking this a bit further – does this mean the distinction between news, sports, entertainment and reality shows will disappear? After all, what’s the difference between the IPL, Budget day, or any other such event? All that matters is advertising, which depends on TRPs or eyeballs.