Budget 2023-24 has been presented and analysed. It had some innovative announcements and no new taxes, a sure-fire formula to keep citizens happy and put a smile on people’s faces as they go on with their quotidian.
But then how many people will take a little time to look at the government financial accounts? That is where the details are and will tell just how robust the economy is and how it could grow. More importantly, it will tell you whether the government’s finances are healthy or not.
Can’t blame the people for not looking at that. Budget speeches in recent years have turned into an occasion for the government to list out its plans for the year, rather than being a financial document that it is primarily meant to be.
Most people won’t complain, as figures that run into thousands of crores could be unintelligible to many. It is always more interesting to know what the government proposes to do in the coming year than, how it is going to earn and how it is going to spend the money.
Of course, everybody wants development, but does it really matter to most people how much in rupees each department has been earmarked for the year? Or does it matter how much is being borrowed and how much that debt bill has risen to?
The Economic Survey tabled on the eve of the Budget pegs the debt at Rs 21,940.46 crore. For a State like Goa that is high, and just how the government hopes to meet the repayments, we still don’t know, even as it adds to the debt figure by the sale of bonds. We perhaps will get an idea of this when the government starts the repayment process.
But, while there is a Budget that is presented and minutely analysed, there is also an action-taken report on the previous year’s Budget that informs how many of the assurances made a year earlier have been completed or are in the process of completion.
It is interesting to note that the action taken report for the year 2022-23 that was tabled on the eve of the 2023-24 Budget did admit that many promises – a majority actually – of the last Budget have not been completed.
‘The works/actions in respect of as many as 34 per cent of the total announcements have already been completed. The works/actions in respect of 105 said announcements (62 per cent) are likely to be completed in the financial year 2023-24,’ the action taken report stated.
Some six announcements have been kept on hold or dropped due to administrative reasons, while one is expected to be completed in 2024. That is the report card of the government of the past year as to what it had promised and what it has delivered.
Interestingly, the Action Taken Report of the previous year had shown that of the 252 announcements made in the 2021-22 Budget speech, 111 had been implemented during the financial year 2021-22, which amounted to 44 per cent of the total announcements.
Though it had not crossed the 50 per cent mark, the performance of the government in the previous year does appear to have been better. That was election year and Goa was in poll mode from early January, which meant little could be done in two whole months, yet more appears to have been achieved.
That just 34 per cent of the announcements have been completed of course gives the opposition a reason to attack the government. And why not? Isn’t that what the opposition does? But the real question here is whether Goa is happy with this performance. Perhaps we would require a survey to get a definite answer to that question.
That being so, the report card of the government can be termed to be not satisfactory. It reminds one of a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon, where Calvin screams out saying, ‘I got 75% of the answers correct, and in today’s society, doing something 75% right is outstanding. If government and industry were 75% competent, we’d be ecstatic.’
When one looks at the government achievements of the past year, vis-a-vis its own Budget announcements, Calvin’s screaming assertion would be oh so right.
Indeed, 75 per cent completion of announcements, would make us all ecstatic, even the opposition would find it difficult to throw some barbs at the government, but when we can’t reach even 50 per cent in a given year, would 75 be achievable?