The media is already calling frantically. They want to block dates/times and have us give our views exclusively on their channels. Budget Day, the big media event day, is scheduled for February 28. "We need a special quote from you, sir, please don't disappoint us'.
But, honestly, what is there to say?
The "disappointment" will not come from me.
It will come from the person giving the speech! ☺
Like it did last year, when the then Finance Minister challenged the safety of the laws of India under which all of us - locals and foreigners - invest and announced a retrospective tax. The GAAR laws have since been repealed, diluted, or deferred - but the damage to India was tremendous. India finally achieved its ambition (wrong, in my view) to be like China. We scored a self-goal and looked like any other tin-pot country that can change fundamental laws at a whim. And then we made the self-goal scorer the coach! From self-goal Finance Minister to President!
Oh, well - that was last year. But what about this year? What can we expect?
Well, I can tell you the budget speech I would like to hear...
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We, the People
Dear Honoured Speaker and Members of the House:
I stand before you today to confess that, for the past few decades, we have lost our way and wasted many opportunities.
Our forefathers fought for freedom and we ended up enslaving our own people again.
In ancient times the priests and the kings brought fear and uncertainty into the daily lives of their suppressed subjects. Democracy has given rise to a new feudal system: a system where the government and the machinery of the government favours our friends, our family, and our very market-capitalisation focused Indian industrialists - whose only claim to the label of "industry" has been the effort of figuring out who to bribe for favours.
We have seen the end result of a statement made by the revered Mrs Indira Gandhi. "Corruption", she intoned, "is an international phenomenon". And so it is. And India has gone international in a big way. In addition to all the murky deals behind the purchase of commercial aircraft and defence equipment we have our home-bred corruption of coal mines, CWG, fodder, iron ore mines, natural gas and oil, real estate cocooned SEZs and spectrum.
It was this astounding success of the Indian intellect and the ability to maximise loot for a few that led Rajiv Gandhi to famously state that money meant for the poor did not reach the poor. Much as he loved his mother, the sacred and revered Indira Gandhi, the son knew that the system was rotten. In fact he claims that his mother told him this.
On December 28, 1985 I was there when the late Rajiv Gandhi, as the President of the Congress Party and a leader of a new India, gave a soul-stirring speech at the Brabourne Stadium on the occasion of the 100th year celebration of the Congress Party. It is a speech that every Indian must read and follow. I have circulated a copy of his speech to all members of the government and the bureaucracy with an instruction to sign this and return it to me as a pledge of their commitment. Yes, a budgetary provision of Rs 2.14 crore has been made to send this to the Top 100 industrialists, the 7,000 members of various legislative bodies, and the 1 lakh members of the bureaucracy at a cost of Rs 54 per mailer.
For those of you who have little time for such irrelevant matters as the text of a soul-stirring speech and are en route to meet one of my colleagues to bribe your way to the next deal, I will read out two extracts from Rajiv Gandhi's sermon.
The first deals with the how the politicians, including those in Congress, have failed us and Rajiv Gandhi's education on India:
I was exhilarated by what had been achieved in the short period since Independence. I was also saddened by what might have been but was not, because of weaknesses in government and in the party. I kept my counsel to my-self, as I was an apprentice in the great school of politics.
After two years of incessant travelling, meeting people, reading and reflection, I felt I could go to her with my perceptions. Listening to me, she thought I had gained some understanding of the complexities of our society. And then she began to unburden herself. She spoke of India's enduring strength and of her hopes for India, but also of her apprehensions and anxieties. She analysed with clinical precision how the entire system had been weakened from within, how the party had once again been infiltrated by vested interests who would not allow us to move, how patronage and graft had affected the national institutional framework, how nationalism and patriotism had ebbed, how the pettiness and selfishness of persons in political positions had ruptured social fabric. She was clear that if India had to keep her 'tryst with destiny,' so much had to change. And then, suddenly, she left us. Indiraji's thoughts and reflections on the state of the nation are an abiding influence.
The second extract deals with the businessmen who enjoy being photographed with their hands folded in their towering homes and villas.
Our economy owes much to the enterprise of our industrialists. But there are some reputed business and industrial establishments which shelter battalions of law -breakers and tax evaders. We have industrialists untouched by the thrusting spirit of the great risk-takers and innovators. The trader's instinct for quick profits prevails. They flourish on sick industries. Many have not cared learn the fundamental lesson that industrialisation springs from the development of indigenous technology, not from dependence on others. Industrial empire built on the shaky foundations of excessive protection, social irresponsibility, import orientation and corruption may not last long.
The trade have a glorious heritage of nationalism and of socially relevant radicalism. Today, they are a mere shadow of their past. They now protect the few who have, oblivious of millions who have not. They feel little concern of the creation of national wealth, only for a larger and larger share in it. Nothing is considered illegitimate if one marches under the right flag. Power without responsibility, rights without duties have come to be their prerogative. Will productivity arise from such stony soil? Let us not forget that the poor and the unemployed have to sacrifice their development programmes to subsidise inefficient industry.
Honourable Speaker, I believe it is time to regain the dream.
To capture the essence of what was expected since the birth of India - the greatest social experiment, now going terribly wrong
I had indicated a provision of Rs 2.14 crore for the printing and circulating of the speech given by the late Rajiv Gandhi.
Do not worry I hope to get all this money - and more - back into the coffers of the government.
By the end of today, the Top 100 industrialists, the 7,000 legislators, and the 1 lakh bureaucrats (to whom a copy of the Rajiv Gandhi Centenary Speech has been sent at a cost of Rs 2.14 crore) will have received a letter from me inviting them to send us the details of their illicit wealth.
They can keep 1% of what they declare - the rest will come to the kitty of Government of India. And they will spend 12 months in hard labour in jail before they are allowed to return to a new, free life.
If they fail to disclose the correct amount of their ill-gotten wealth, we will take no hesitation in confiscating whatever we discover - including their legitimate wealth. And, as a further punishment, they will be sent to work in the coal mines, the iron ore fields, and the roofs of ramshackle structures to erect the towers on which they beamed the spectrum they once owned. This will be a life sentence.
And we will not spare the members of the government - we, after all, are subject to the same laws which we have been empowered to administer.
Members of the Honourable House, the plight of the women in this country has driven us to initiate a law to fast-track the cases of abuse against our cherished women.
And, in the same spirit, we will create a fast track court for these cases against the privileged and the well-connected who have abused Mother India.
Please do not get me wrong. This is not a witch hunt. This is an enforcement of law.
Catch the big fish, the small will fall in line.
We wish to be fair, to be democratic - to give equal opportunity to all.
We cannot guarantee an outcome for every citizen - that is the responsibility of the individual to rise to the occasion. But we can ensure that every individual who wishes to progress by fair means is given the opportunity to do so. That is the true meaning of a democracy.
I now place before the House, the budget for the financial year beginning April 1, 2013.
There will be no change in any revenue programme of the previous budget.
There will be no change in any expenditure programme of the previous budget.
Barring these additions:
It is my humble expectation, Honorary Speaker, that when you clean up the big fish the small fish come to get cleaned on their own. I must apologise but I was unable to find a suitable quote in Tamil. But I did find this one in English: If you kill the Lion, your roar will being in the Rabbits. To ensure that Tamil literature remains rich and can continue to be a source of inspiration for future Finance Ministers, Pandit Subramaniam, has enshrined this in Tamil: Singhatai konal, adodu karzanai muyalai kondu varum.
- A sum of Rs. 2.14 crore for the printing and delivery of the inspiring speech of Rajiv Gandhi that I had referred to earlier;
- A sum of Rs. 500 crore for the creation and operation of the 50 fast track courts we will implement on a war footing to be put in place and fully staffed, with at least one in every state;
- A sum of Rs. 10,000 crore to be paid to a select staff of 10,000 lawyers and investigators who will investigate senior members of every government, political party, and bureaucracy and the Top 100 business families. These teams will have 365 days to bring their cases to the fast court for a quick conclusion. There will be a daily update on the website: CongressAgainstCorruptActs or CACA.in
Honourable colleague, war is of many kinds. There is the traditional form of physical war which we are equipped to fight. There is the state-aided terrorism which we are battling on a continuous basis. And there is the subtle war waged by civilians in fine clothing: the war of undermining an economy. It is this financial subversion that we are now tackling. While we have outlined the steps to fight the domestic enemy who aid and create corruption, we need to take steps to fight their handlers and supporters.
To show our seriousness of purpose, we are confiscating the assets of the governments and companies of Cayman Islands, Channel Islands, Cypress, Luxembourg, Mauritius, Panama, Singapore, and Switzerland which are within India. We want these countries to release every bank account where the beneficiary is, or suspected to be, an Indian resident. The onus is on them to give us the list. The responsibility is ours to check what is legitimate. More countries will be added to this list over time.
Every foreign bank operating in India will have its license suspended with immediate effect and these banks will only be allowed to operate again when they have released the list of every bank account suspected to belong to an Indian resident.
Every multinational company will need to submit to us a list of people or entities they have paid consulting fees or bribes to in order to win contracts in India. Failure to submit the list will result in confiscation of their Indian assets and they will be debarred from any further business in India.
For the credit rating agencies who are so worried about our fiscal deficit, I have only this to say: you may need to upgrade India to AAA+++ status. With all the money that we will collect from confiscated wealth, we will have a budget surplus for decades.
And for those economists worried about out capital account deficit, I have only this to say: with the return of the money in offshore bank accounts, India's foreign exchange reserves will grow by an estimated 300%. India will be able to handle any crisis. And, yes, we will remove the import tariff on gold for those fools who still wish to buy gold.
Honorary Speaker and citizens of the country, the time has come to make India a place worthy of us.
A place where corruption may not be eradicated - but it is rare and unusual.
A place where we, the government, are servants of the people.
It is with this spirit that I read out another extract from the speech of Rajiv Gandhi, "The war on corruption will go on without let or hindrance. The country needs a clean social and political environment the Congress is determined to give it."
I had announced the Rajiv Gandhi Equity Saving Scheme to kick start the habit of retail investing for a new generation of investors.
Honourable Speaker, I now submit before you, humbly, a budget inspired by the Rajiv Gandhi Centenary Speech to announce the birth of the India which our freedom fighters fought for.
Yes, that is the budget speech, I wish to hear. Call me for a comment when such a speech is delivered - and such a budget is adopted.
Anything else will be a disappointment. And feel free to quote me on that!
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