After the mind-blowing economic item number promised by the Narendra Modi electioneering machine — fix the fragile economy, tame the inflation tiger, rein in the deficit, reform those inefficient populist programmes and tax structures, attract overseas investment, get back to those go-go growth years — the budget was a tame affair. Apart from sticking by his predecessor’s target of 4.1 per cent (of GDP) for the fiscal deficit and promising a reduction to 3 per cent by 2016-17 while lifting overall growth back up to 7-8 per cent, there was a single word to describe Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s budget: modest.
If this is the first major exam for the government in its fresher year, Jaitley’s overall performance was a solid B. Some individual grades follow.
His speech was a C, too long and a laundry list with a little bit, it seemed, for everybody. For a while it seemed unclear where it was going and if there was any vision driving his recitation; the stock market rolled its eyes, went into a swoon as he spoke, only to recover and surge a bit after he was done when it realised that Jaitley had actually scattered quite a few meaningful nuggets after all.
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