Budget 2020

‘Emphasis on education, a big positive’

Leo Fernandez | Updated on February 01, 2020 Published on February 01, 2020

CEO and Co-Founder TalentEase Leo Fernandez with his family at his residence in Hyderabad. Nagara Gopal   -  Nagara Gopal

One of the best pieces of news from the Budget is something that has no impact on our personal finances but addresses one of my personal passions. TalentEase, the social business we run, has an 80 per cent highly committed and passionate women workforce and, of the children and young adults we serve, more than 70 per cent are girls. To hear that the enrolment ratio of girls in all phases of schooling is greater than that of boys is fantastic news. It’s great if policies and execution have resulted in this trend and it’s very exciting for us because to empower and enable girl children is a personal goal and an important part of the TalentEase mission.

With the Finance Minister promising an allocation of ₹99,300 crore to education and ₹3,000 crore for skills, we hope that this will be executed well to make a real difference to the sector we serve. Finding a school that really puts the child at the centre was a huge priority for us and it was a difficult search eight years ago when we returned to India, that brought us to Hyderabad and Manthan School for my children, Marcus and Marcela, to study at. As this education outlay trickles down, perhaps for other parents like us, the search will be less difficult.

A step forward

At TalentEase, our charitable work through our LightLives division, serving orphans and low-income schools, was dragging, with the weight of the hassles with the IT registration process. With the promise of electronic registration for charities, we see the possibility of avoiding the hazy and unpredictable process of dealing with the IT department.

The simplification of personal income-tax is a major step forward. I have been a fan of lower tax rates and a junking of all the exemptions and deductions. These had only served to make the process complex with a need to track multiple deductions and exemptions. The choice to opt for a lower tax regime without the exemptions and deductions is something that personally appeals.The only concern would be to look at the fine print and be sure that this is not a case of ‘with one hand we giveth and the other we taketh away.’ Unfortunately, the Budget offers nothing for senior citizens like my parents.

GST, a big discouragement

The biggest missing piece was the lost opportunity on simplification and rationalisation of GST. While we had mentally prepared for this, because this is now the domain of the GST Council, we were hoping for some good news in the Budget. TalentEase is focussed on a key priority of the Government — building skills and values for the nation’s young people. To be slammed by an 18 per cent GST rate was a massive discouragement. It makes it more expensive for schools to use our services. We continue to wait for good news here.

Overall, the biggest concern is the difference between announcements and execution, between ‘soundbytes’ and reality. We hear the focus on roads and infrastructure but the roads outside our residential community have been worse than a lunar surface for the last four years! We see ODF boards all over the place but open defecation happening right below them, because toilet facilities don’t exist locally. We hear the focus on housing but see workers at construction complexes nearby live in sheds not fit for human beings.

If execution gets more focus than promises, then hopefully the real-life issues of citizens like all of us will get better.

The writer is CEO and co-founder of TalentEase, and is a consultant and coach to school heads, teachers and parents. He was previously partner/managing director with Accenture, Singapore.

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Published on February 01, 2020
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