A Pre-budget Open Letter to the FM

(This column was first published on Value Research India.)

Dear Finance Minister Sir,

Since everyone’s talking about the new government’s budget that’s scheduled to be delivered on 10th July, I thought I’d write to you about the same. From the common man’s perspective, the middle class’ perspective, there are some things that would bring great joy if they’re part of the budget. These expectations might seem ridiculous, but since we’ve been talking about “acche din” for a while now, why not hope for the absurd best?

That said, here’s my wish list for the budget, and it’s as ridiculous as it can get. I do hope you consider them, though.

Abolishment of income tax. Yes, frankly speaking, on behalf of every class of our population, I’d like to say that we don’t really want to pay any income tax. It doesn’t matter how much income we’re earning, we don’t want to give away any part of it to the government. We work hard to earn this income, at least some of us do, and we would like to keep all of it. Of course, I understand that the government needs to levy taxes to be able to function, but I also understand that you can figure out other ways to do that and let us keep our incomes entirely to ourselves.

Free healthcare. Sir, I live in the fear that everything I ever earn will end up either in the government’s coffers or in my doctors’ bank accounts. Do you have any idea how expensive basic healthcare is for the common man? One visit to a doctor easily burns a hole into our pocket. And it’s not just the doctor’s consultation fees, there are tests to be paid for (we never know if they’re actually required or not) and medicines to buy. It becomes a vicious circle of money flying out of our pockets, even in extremely foggy weather conditions. Of course, the actual solution would be to improve our living standards, but we know that’s beyond repair. We can’t really get rid of diseases, but can we hope for their free or cheaper treatment?

Low-cost education. I’m sorry, but I forgot to mention educational institutes as the third party – after the government and doctors – who would be ending up with most of what I earn. I’ve no idea why private education has to be so expensive and why government education has to be so inadequate, but it’s sad that it is. Why can’t we make education equal and affordable for everyone?  I believe the government should be the central provider of education, so that it stops being a business for those who’re running private institutions these days.

Curb on car ownership. Sir, this is my most ridiculous expectation, and it’s inspired by the frustration caused by traffic. There are many ways to control traffic, and one of them is to put a limit on the number of cars that are out on the roads. I know we can’t stop people from buying their first car, but we can limit a family from having more cars than members, can’t we? We don’t need the budget to make cars less expensive, we need it to make them less accessible. If such a limit isn’t enforced soon, I’m sure we’ll face a situation where we’ll be leaving our car in a traffic jam, walking to work and coming back in the evening to find it exactly where it was left.

Control household inflation. This expectation is not absurd; it’s a no-brainer. Everyone wants inflation to be under control. We want vegetables and groceries to be cheaper, we want fuel to be cheaper, we want other items of daily use to be cheaper. We would like to be back at the place where cooking food at home was cheaper than ordering from a multinational fast food chain. We really don’t want to spend most of what we earn to make ends meet.

Like I mentioned before, my budget expectations might seem ridiculous, but they aren’t really. Some of these have been successfully implemented by other countries. They’re not entirely frivolous. But being an India, cynicism comes easily to me and I know that I can’t expect any of these things to happen in my lifetime. All I can do is hope that some steps are taken in the right direction to make things better for our future generations.

With that in mind, here’s to acche din.

Wishing you well,

A Common Man

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