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Tuesday, Mar 11, 2003

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Budget tamasha

THE Budget tamasha has ended sooner than expected. Unlike as in the past, it did not begun very well for corporate chieftains what with Mr Jaswant Singh deciding to do away with the customary pre-Budget consultation exercise. Of course, while there were no official high-level confabulations in Delhi, sneak meetings with those connected with Budget-making continued.

But much of the tamasha was happening on the small screen, with various TV channels trying their best to outdo one another. Every who mattered (or did not) from the industry or the business had a field day. With the channels out to get hold of the best professionals and star anchors, loyalties shifted fast. NDTV, riding the STAR bandwagon, hogged the limelight on Budget telecasts, though Aaj Tak, the exclusive Hind channel, came out strongly with a more focussed analysis and content.

The national and state industry associations vied with one another through their `unique' content and analysis approach on the virtues of the Budget or the lack of it. The national chapter of these associations hosts the top industry leaders who fly into the capital from all over the country as if to find a place in the sun. The red carpet is rolled out for the business media to cover the wide-ranging and `expert' comments of the VIPs. This gathering is hooked directly to the live Budget telecast to be `online' with the developments. Similar congregations of lesser-known persons from the State industry bodies are organised at the regional centres in the West, South and the East to give the show a wider perspective.

The CEOs have a field day, moving from one camera to the other for analysis and sound bytes. And in honour of the cameras all are nattily turned out. If the grapevine is to be believed, the head of a major software company in the south was apparently having a hair dressing session at a five-star hotel on the day before the Budget. On being queried on the Budget, his enthusiastic response was that he was flying to Delhi to be present at the gala event.

Does the Budget need coverage and comment on this scale? Even as the Finance Minister seems keen on cutting down the time and money spent on Budget making and presentation, the industry must cut down on such huge spendings on comment and analysis. If one were to assign a value of the `CEO hours' spent on this exercise, it may be a revelation.

Such pre-and post-Budget hysteria is not evidenced in other developing/developed economies. It is the industry that is creating the hype by using the Budget as a policy-making platform. Rather than involving itself in Budget lobbying, the industry would do well to concentrate on a lobby that will determine the country's long-term economic road map. Only this will give credence to our image and attract investments from within and abroad.The curtain has been rung down on the Budget presentation for 2003-2004. Enough of the tamasha, let us get down to implementing the Budget whole-heartedly.

B. S. Rathor

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