Good budget; sans class approach

By Sandesh Prabhudesai (EdiThought)
19 March 2013 19:05 IST

With majority Indian middle class moving into an affluent section, budget exercise nowadays has become comparatively an easy game – tax a bit the higher middle class section and exempt the majority class of unaffordables completely from any kind of taxation. Every budget nowadays then looks like an election budget and the kitty still fills in. The union budget in fact was fully based in this philosophy. Chief minister Manohar Parrikar’s this year’s budget however does not reflect this philosophy. May be because Goa’s department of planning and statistics has not been exploited fully to analyse the changing face of Goan society, or may be the budget has not been focused from class point of view. Not that the budget is fully unrealistic. It is an intelligent exercise to generate revenue in spite of all the odds Goa is presently passing through. But it does not sound to be a philosophical exercise, in terms of class approach.

For example, the budget introduces transfer fee for registration of used vehicles and green tax on vehicles completing 15 years. The fee or the tax ranges between Rs 500 to Rs 5000, in different categories of vehicles from two wheelers to heavy vehicles. Who buys second hand vehicles or uses any vehicle beyond 15 years? Definitely not the affluent class, but the middle class or the lower middle class – the unaffordables. And on the other hand, it has reduced both the VAT and entry tax to 12.5 per cent on luxury cars costing above Rs 15 lakh and two-wheeler costing above Rs 2.5 lakh. Does this provide a relief to the class who can afford such luxury vehicles; or a favour?

It is a commendable step that the government has announced new housing scheme for government servants with 2000 flats of 50 to 80 square meters at Rs 12,000 per square meter. But this same philosophy is not applied to other lower middle class or middle class Goans. Though one per cent of stamp duty is reduced on registration, additional minimum one per cent tax is being levied on the money paid to the builder, for any house above Rs 10 lakh. Similarly, infrastructure tax has been introduced on housing projects, beginning with Rs 200 per square meter. It means houses would cost more even to the middle class; forget the lower middle class. Can anybody buy at least a single bedroom flat for Rs 10 lakh today? Instead, the chief minister could have accepted the proposal prepared by CREDAI, the builders’ organization, of Land Estate for low-cost  housing. Instead of reducing stamp duty on housing with a cooperative society, the government also needs to urgently implement the proposal prepared by the Law Commission led by Ramakant Khalap for housing cooperative societies.

Parrikar however needs to be appreciated the way he has generated revenue in spite of all the odds. Besides tax revenue, he has also focused more upon the non-tax revenue. His efforts to streamline the administration also reflect in the budget exercise, with increased fees on  forms and services and introduction of e-services and e-administration. This would also reduce corruption as well as wastage. Charging web-enabled services and even courier services for the delivery of on-line transactions is a welcome step to generate revenue with changing technology. However, it needs to be seen how he manages to raise revenue through this whole tedious exercise when guaranteed 22 per cent revenue from mining will not come any more, even if legal mining starts. He himself admits that almost 60 per cent mining was illegal.

No chief minister is a magician and nor Manohar Parrikar can be. Goans should not be disappointed because he has not introduced any new social security scheme this year. In fact people should be happy that he has not discontinued any existing scheme, including no VAT on petrol or doles to housewives or ‘government dowry’ to young girls. But such schemes make people ‘dependent’. That is the reason Parrikar needs to be lauded for revising the Chief Minister’s Rojgar Yojana, now to be named after ‘milkman’ Dr Kurien, with a target of making 6000 youth self-employed and also targeting 8000 youth under Minimum Employment Guarantee Scheme. in fact, philosophically, the government needs to bring in more such schemes that would make them entrepreneurs than mere servants. The chief minister thus needs to focus more on the Service Industry, which is booming at 52 per cent but largely hijacked by the migrant business community.

And the last, but not the least, about his budget speech in Konkani and steps to implement Konkani and Marathi at official level. It is understandable that the whole exercise is more political than administrative or linguistic. Because the reality is that only Konkani is Goa’s official language of Goa and not Marathi. Precisely this is the reason Parrikar himself had moved a bill to make Marathi ‘also’ the official language and now his double-speak MLA Vishnu Wagh is playing this trick. On the other hand, promoting two scripts for one language is a political exercise and not linguistic. The government needs to take any step from futuristic point of view and not merely to tackle the present. That is the reason Parrikar is in Catch 22 situation on the issue of Medium of Instruction, which he keeps postponing.

But let the politicians not forget that Konkani is not merely a language or issue of politics. It is the identity that has preserved our secular fabric. Dividing it into scripts and languages will ultimately divide us. And what Goa needs at this stage is the Unity of ‘Multilingual Goa’, which is vanishing very fast. Let us not create islands for our petty short-term political gains. Let us look at Konkani beyond language and politics – as the symbol of our Identity and Unity!!

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Sandesh Prabhudesai (EdiThought)

Sandesh Prabhudesai is the Editor of goanews.com. He has been earlier the Editor of Sunaparant (Konkani daily) and Editor-in-Chief of Pruden (TV channel). His collection of selective editorials of Sunaparant has been published as 'Goff'. He writes brief thoughts as EdiThought for goanews.com, but not on regular basis.

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