ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Articles by Mala LalvaniSubscribe to Mala Lalvani

Bharat Nirman: A Stocktaking Exercise

A prominent feature of Budget 2010, like the previous United Progressive Alliance budgets, is the continued support to the Bharat Nirman - a programme which has come to occupy an important part in the UPA government's thrust on rural development. This article attempts a stocktaking exercise of this initiative, and in doing so, it draws attention to areas where mid-course correction is called for if the increased budgetary allocation is to translate into a de facto improvement in rural infrastructure.

Regional Variations and Impact of Delimitation in Maharashtra

An attempt is made here to bring to the fore the politico-economic dimension of regional variation in Maharashtra and the possible impact of delimitation on the outcome of the 2009 assembly elections. Empirical observation shows that at least on paper, delimitation with its greater weight to the urban centres will benefit the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena alliance over the Nationalist Congress Party- Congress coalition. However there is a silver lining for the Congress - the strongest factor in favour of the Congress remains the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.

Persistence of Fiscal Irresponsibility: Looking Deeper into Provisions of the FRBM Act

While the 2009-10 budget was branded as a lacklustre budget, there seems to be near consensus that it rightly pushed aside the issue of fiscal rules, as growth is the top-most priority at this moment and all else can follow. This paper argues that even if we were to accept this position, the direction and structure of expenditures since the passage of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act has been far from "responsible" even when macro caps were being met. The structure of expenditure allocations in the 2009-10 budget appears to be inadequate for a "fiscal stimulus". The time is thus opportune to chalk out a set of "Second Generation Fiscal Rules", which will address the inadequacies that have surfaced during the four-year experience with fiscal rules at the central government level. Prioritising these second generation rules - thus following the gradualist approach - and strengthening enforcement via greater power to the Comptroller and Auditor General, which could play the role of a Fiscal Council, would facilitate greater success of the new rules.

Demonstrating a 'New Political Budget Cycle'

The budgetary allocations for primary education and agriculture - the two apparent beneficiaries from budget 2008-09 - are examined in some detail in this article. In the case of primary education the funds have been directed at programmes that show a track record of underutilisation. In agriculture too, the details reveal that allocations are not on directly productive activities. These covertly disguised allocations on "desirable" components of the budget suggest that there has been "learning" on the part of politicians and we need to watch out for a New Political Budget Cycle.

Education, Agriculture and Subsidies: Long on Words

The opportunity provided by high growth and a comfortable revenue situation to make a serious attempt to boost allocations for education and agriculture has been allowed to slip away. The high priority status accorded to these sectors in the budget speech is not backed by numbers. Instead the numbers have been played around with - such gimmickry only serves to make budgets lose their credibility. Further, the track record of the government fails to inspire confidence that the fiscal targets will be attained. One cannot help but conclude that Budget 2007-08 appears to be long on words alone.

NDA and UPA Budgets

This article attempts to judge the fiscal performance of the UPA and NDA governments from the point of view of broad macro-fiscal indicators. On the tax front, the UPA deserves credit for improved performance but there are severe misgivings about the lower proportions being allocated to capital expenditure in key social and economic services. The fact that the UPA has not curbed subsidies and is spending higher proportions on administration than the NDA are some obvious flaws. The performance of the UPA is well below expectations.

Towards Economic Empowerment of Urban Local Bodies in Maharashtra

Scarcity of resources for urban infrastructure is a universal concern in developing economies. Also, prudent mandate of macroeconomic management has led to a reduction in hand-downs from higher governments. The sub-national governments have had to look at several alternatives with a sense of urgency. In this paper we focus on the possibilities of the sub-national governments accessing, the financial markets in general and the debt market in particular. Our paper focuses on the need to create virtual entities - self-help groups amongst the urban local bodies - that could expand the domain of eligible ULBs. We visualise a scheme for capital market access by ULBs, which would work without the state acting as an intermediary and also without any new institution being set up. We provide the theoretical underpinnings, illustrate and operationalise the idea with the help of data related to ULBs in the state of Maharashtra.

Budget 2005-06: Promises to Keep and Miles to Go....?

The outlays from the centre to the states as a consequence of the Twelfth Finance Commission recommendations do not justify it being labelled as the cause for the union budget 'pressing the pause button' on the FRBM target. Without institutions and rules in place for states to avail of loans from the market, this recommendation of the TFC, which is based on sound economic logic, may actually backfire and take its toll on state finances and future growth. Also, no tough decisions have been taken to curb the burgeoning subsidy bill; no significant effort to curb the growing revenue expenditures and across the board cut in capital expenditures are some other counts on which the budget 2005-06 has disappointed.

Budget 2004-05:Letting the Numbers Speak

The budget for 2004-05 was a far cry from the 'dream budget' that was being expected from the new finance minister. It has certainly not delivered on the promises and goals of being 'pro-poor' and 'pro-rural'. The budgetary allocations in no way make it appear significantly different from its predecessor. However, the one important message that the budget did send out is that it intends to maintain and take forward the reform process.

Learning to Pay for Your Lunch

Shorn of statistics and verbiage, a budget document is most important as a signalling device. This premise is crucial to our treatment of the budget. Looking at the statistics and arithmetic in the budget for 1999-2000, the general impression which emerges is that the budget allocations do not conform with many of the commitments of the budget speech, particularly in the case of economic services - agriculture, irrigation, rural development and industries. For social services, however, the budget does seem to promise a somewhat better package. Of the lessons that need to be learnt and which are very much hinted at in the budget, viz, learn to let go and learn to pay, are of essence. Internalising especially the last of these lessons by the principals (the public) involves facing and resolving contradictions in their own actions. Unless we stop pointing fingers and realise that there is no free lunch to be had, no budget, however well formulated, can really achieve anything.

Some Anomalies in Indian Data Sets-Tackling Inconsistencies

Tackling Inconsistencies Mala Lalvani A dose look at the data on select aggregates in public finance reveals that a number of accounting changes had been resorted to over the years, making the data series subject to inconsistencies, rendering futile any further research based on these series. In the present study a long time series of fiscal aggregates were subjected to microscopic scrutiny and an attempt made to circumvent the problem posed by the inconsistencies in these time series.

Interest Groups, Subsidies and Public Goods-Farm Lobby in Indian Agriculture

Interest Groups, Subsidies and Public Goods Farm Lobby in Indian Agriculture Ajit Karnik Mala Lalvani Indian agriculture exhibits a wide array of government controls combined with enormous subsidisation of inputs to the sector Apart from the subsidies, the federal and state governments incur large expenditures to provide public goods to agriculture. This article examines the influence of the farm lobby in determining the availability of subsidies and public goods to agriculture.


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