Budget 2014: How PM Narendra Modi's First Budget May Look Like


NEW DELHI: ET’s March 1, 2013 Budget Edition carried a sharp commentary by a man who was then one of India’s many chief ministers. A little over a year later he became India’s prime minister. In about a week from now his government will present its first budget.

Narendra Modi’s 2013 budget commentary for ET, even granting it was written from the perspective of a CM from the then national opposition party, offers interesting insights into how India’s current PM thinks a good budget should look like.

Here’s Modi 2013 analysed for clues to Modi 2014:

Don’t Play Safe: “This budget is-…piecemeal…UPA…wants to play safe,” Modi had written in ET. His 2013 commentary had mocked UPA repeatedly for not thinking big. It’s safe to assume Modi in 2014 would want to avoid being tagged as “playing safe”. The ‘I will change things’ politics of his election victory doesn’t allow that option.

Find Cash for Infra: “Against the much-needed Rs 55 lakh crore for infrastructure development, the budget attempts to mobilise a meagre Rs 50,000 crore”, Modi had observed in 2013, and built on this theme of neglect of big projects. Finding big money for big projects will define 2014 budget as a Modi budget like little else would.

Skill Them Young: “The UPA government has allocated a mere Rs 1,000 crore for skill development. Contrast that with the Rs 800 crore for just one state, Gujarat, has allocated for skill development”. That 2013 observation by Modi in ET, who also said even rich countries like the US do more to tackle skill shortage, played out throughout his 2013-14 poll campaign and is again a signature Modi theme. Modi wants even plain vanilla welfare scheme NREGA to be retooled into a skills programme. Smart ideas and substantial fiscal backing for skills development can be another Modi imprimatur on Budget 2014.

No Fiscal Fudge: Modi wrote in ET, while commenting on UPA’s fiscal deficit targeting, that “without any clear measure to mop up tax revenues and increase (tax) collection efficiency”, deficit targeting will lead to “cuts in development spending”. Many experts said this, too. And they will say it about Modi’s budget even more should it try a fiscal fudge. But Modi’s 2013 ET commentary shows he knows the severe reputational costs of a fudge. Cutting deficits sharply but honestly will make Modi’s 2014 budget stand out clearly from UPA’s last few budgets.

Feel Federal: “States have been requesting the Centre to address the issue of deficit of trust…,” Modi had written in the context of critiquing the 2013 budget for what he saw as being insufficiently federal in terms of resource allocation. Many PMs and FMs don’t pay enough attention to federalism issues in Union budgets. But this PM, the first serving CM to get the country’s top job, may have a different approach. GST rollout is critically dependent on statesand Modi has courted some CMs already. His 2014 budget may try and address that ‘trust deficit’.



Avoid Gimmicks: “The move to set up the world’s first public sector women’s bank is a mockery…”, Modi had written in ET, rubbishing a proposal P Chidambaram had claimed was radical. Experts had disagreed with Chidambaram. And that Modi had decided to attack a 2013 budget proposal that had seemed politically correct indicates he may not want his 2014 budget to be critiqued for gimmicky and superficial ideas.