Our Bahi Khaata moment

first_imgThe good-old and antiquated British ‘despatch box’ for transporting official papers has given way to the indigenous book of income and expense items called bahi khaata. This has been the traditional accounts-keeping register of small and medium businesses in our country. The bahi khaata has been raised to iconic status, with this year’s budget papers wrapped in maroon look-alike fabric, instead of the mundane briefcase and carried to Parliament for presentation. The ‘break’ with the past practice caught national attention instantly. No, there have been no raising of eyebrows, maybe just a trifle askew, but the exit of the budget briefcase of the earlier luminaries of Finance has many messages of content and intent. Also Read – A special kind of bondIntents, as they came, were truly impressive. We are marching towards the 5-trillion mark as an economy, with aspirations of the billion-plus countrymen already scripted by a divine hand. Sceptics and doubting Thomases can sulk or roll out their theses in Khan Market cafes, but nobody has any time for them. It has been proven that they and their mindsets are irrelevant. The less said about these hangers-on of past regimes, the better it is. For good measure and the sake of decency of public discourse, such a lot of dismal scientists can be classified as pessimists. They are asking how do we get to 5 trillion when we are only 2.7 trillion now! The nerve. No point calling them names! Also Read – Insider threat managementTo get to know about the content, one has to wade through a mass of annexures, if you are keen to uncover the mysterious offerings of the great document. The speech only offered the promise of a great future. There has been great applause for added tax on the super-rich. What do we mortals care, who are barely on the margins of the middle class? Serves the super-rich right, as they have been living off the land. Their companies are in losses, but they get richer and richer. It is the sleight of accountants, adept at the creative composition of financial figures. Nevertheless, arguments between the mighty critics and almighty government sources have not ceased. The former points to discordant figures, sums not adding up, revenue potential over-optimistic for the next year, particularly given the past year’s shortfall, etc. Defence counsels are equally emphatic about the figures being authentic and closing the door on further discussion. Nonetheless, it is not a great idea to take taxes to a level where tax avoidance will test the genius of our accountants, besides encouraging businesses and trusts in such a bracket to invest overseas. The national malady of our economy has been the lack of predictability of our tax regime. It changes every year. What is income today, changes every year and that is the prime reason the budget day is awaited with bated breath and is a bane for all financial management planning by industry and individuals alike. ‘Reform, perform, and transform’ is a spirited theme and smart oratory. Its push into reality is painfully slow and more often only cosmetic. The 1991 liberalisation launch did not penetrate into the genetic structure of our body politic. What was de-bureaucratised, was in reality re-bureaucratised. The accompanying technology solutions were slow and not universal. This situation continues to thwart the potential of our economy. The policy structure happens in the capital while the transformation has to happen in the states, hence the gap in fulfilment. Co-operative federalism as an idea has been constantly stonewalled by the nature of our political practitioners. There has to be a serious DNA alteration programme for ‘reform, perform and transform’ to be the reality we all aspire for. Our ‘bahi khata’ has been spoilt by our lack of respect for numbers. Traditionally, the ‘khaata’ is a faithful record of financial transactions. Our natural predisposition has been to use numbers for situational convenience. The Economic Survey, issued a day before the budget was presented, adopted figures of provisional actual receipts, while the budget went for estimated ones beyond the original estimates. The noise over the GDP numbers has been a continuing one, with more questions on its credibility, than credible answers. It is one thing to have an ideological divide over economic policies, but to vary the statistics as per the party in power, makes the integrity of our data a bit shady. It is then left to the purveyors of eco-political theories to build transient justifications. The good news is that our economy grows despite the government, most times and sometimes, in spite of the government. There is an inherent momentum, powered by the ‘can do’ necessity of living. Sure, there is scarcity of access to acquiring competent skills, access to finance is an obstacle race which involves a price for every barrier cleared and many more and regulatory clearances another dark tunnel, but as the aspiring hero in ‘Gully Boy’ says, “apan ka din bhi ayega”, our time will come and we will be a 5+ trillion economy. (The views expressed are strictly personal)last_img