Sachin scored 81, which was worth twice as much in the circumstances. The same applies to Chidambaram's budget. He took over as finance minister after Pranab Mukherjee's terrible last innings. The economy was sliding and sentiment was terrible.
A well-intentioned government had been brought to a standstill, and then asked to perform, by India's independent institutions: the CAG, the Supreme Court, the media and, yes, the RBI. Chidambaram had to fight all this. Did the finance minister — who, I feel, will be UPA's choice for PM in 2014 — deliver?
In large part, yes. Investment allowance was a major capitalasset creator in the 80s and should make some difference to manufacturing even today. The move on the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor is commendable. I'm a believer in India's future as an electronics manufacturer, and duty-free imports for semiconductor fabrication units is excellent.
There are many other proposals that are progressive. Social spending has been kept up too. But why keep GAAR? Why not resolve the retrospective tax issue completely? Why introduce a surcharge on corporate tax, even if it is for just one year? We all know how surcharges acquire a life of their own. These are dampeners. So, will this Budget kick-start growth?
The economy is still sliding. An excessive focus on the fiscal deficit means investment spending suffers. India needs lower interest rates, more than Chidambaram's Budget, to justify capital investments.
But now that the RBI has broken India's growth momentum so solidly, a rate cut of 100-150 basis points simply won't work. The India growth story has been severely dehydrated by the RBI. It is on the stretcher. It needs saline. Water will not do.