Budget has lost significance

Budget has lost significance

In today’s VUCA world, adaptability and agility to the fast changing interconnected global economy is solely required, which can only be provided by systems and processes which take proactive and corrective actions on demand.

 The Annual Budget, which is essentially an annual estimate of the country’s income and expenditure, has lost its significance and relevance, much like the Five Year Plan that India once used to draw up.

In the dynamic environment that we are living in today, even a week is too long a period for decision making. Decisions need to be taken fast and as and when required, instead of just once a year. The provisions and recommendations of the Budget, therefore, sometimes remain just that and never see implementation. And sometimes, implementation happens even when it is not provisioned for.

Of course, we need actions based on the direction given to the government by the electorate, and passing a Money Bill is just one of them. The Budget could provide a yardstick by which one could then translate the direction to action.

A government comes to power based on promises and the Budget gives an indication to the electorate regarding the government’s plans regarding them. Of course, one has to make use of opportunities when one sees them instead of waiting for a year, and another Budget to do so.

The relevance of the Budget remains insofar as it is a way the government can communicate directly to the people regarding its plans and how it has fared regarding them.

The Prime Minister’s ambitious “Startup India” movement launched last month more or less summed up the industry’s expectations regarding the Budget. Income tax exemptions, for the first few years faster patent registrations and quicker exits for companies have been some of the promises made at the event.

The industry was quick to welcome the “less interference and more support” tone of the programme. As far as e-commerce is concerned, the primary requirement would be in terms of the ease of doing business. The government’s role in providing this ease begins with providing basic infrastructure.

That is a minimum requirement and that is not for the private sector or startups or e-commerce companies to provide. Electricity, ports, roads as also last mile connectivity are the pillars on which entrepreneurs will build their own value propositions. That apart, certain basic norms like how easy it should be to set up a business and how easy it should be to exit it and start afresh if things do not work out, would come under the ease of doing business. In the Budget, what they ought to be doing is policy formulation for this.

However, when it comes to B2B e-commerce, what we expect from the government is much more than simply infrastructure. In this case, the government has a more crucial role to play – that of a seller of natural resources like spectrum, coal or limestone – and that of a large buyer of a whole range of goods and services. What the B2B e-commerce industry needs from the government is nothing more than a level playing field, and transparency whenever a job is awarded. Unfortunately, we have found the government lacking in this process in the last one and a half years.

Orders are being awarded to public sector undertakings through a nomination route and that is certainly not desirable and certainly not beneficial for the people of the country. For one, the system is opaque and one sided. Also, the capability of the organization which is being handed the order is not undergoing a fair evaluation process. Unfortunately this system overrides the natural selection of the best suited to do the job and the most efficient, which is what the public and the nation needs and deserves.

(The author is a founder CEO and MD of mjunction services and Chairman CII National Committee on eCommerce)



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