Budget Day

It was “budget day” today; the presentation of the national budget for the year 2007-2008. It’s a tradition now to have it live on TV and radio. So I rushed back home after work. I didn’t want to miss it. Nobody seemed either as the traffic was particularly jammed this afternoon. I managed to make it just in time. It was exactly 4.30 pm when I set my feet at the doorstep. Sarah had already switched on the TV. I could hear the national anthem nearly drawing to its end. The Parliament was just sitting.

The Minister of Finance shot off for a nearly two-hour speech with an excellent use of sweet expressions amidst some announcements that would otherwise appear sour. That’s the usual scenario at each presentation. And you can see his fellow colleagues applauding him interruptedly at every popular announcement, while the members of the opposition stay silent, serious and attentive.

It seemed to be a continuation of last year’s initiatives and it was hard to single out any new (indeed favorable) measure, except the accelerated corporate tax incentive, and some minor benefits to really needy. More and more public private partnership, implying increased capitalism. No mention of any declared price control, special employment incentives or enhanced security measures for the protection of the vulnerable. Those were some of the “on-the-spot” reactions of a couple of trade unionists who chose to boycott the budget speech. The main opposition party mouthpieces chimed in the same line.

I’m tempted to say that year in year out, the budget presentation is a combination of the same set of nice announcements quite apart from what really happens in practice afterwards. Last year everyone was happy with the income tax incentives as the Minister announced exemption of some 40 000 taxpayers from direct taxation. What ensued afterwards is only to make one lament on the decisions. Many would have preferred direct tax payments than the uncontrolled indirect taxation which nearly doubled prices of some basic commodities, like milk, rice, flour, lentils, butter. The prices increased practically every month, which resulted in a two-digit inflation rate.

We cannot doubt the Minister’s word that the measures aim at curbing deficits and favouring economic growth as the country has started to reap the benefits of tight measures taken last year. Let’s hope this year will be better.

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