11.00: He’s there. Speech in hand, glass of water at hand. As Pranab rises to present his budget, put on your seatbelts. But just a small window of opportunity for loo breaks, ordering that pizza (don’t worry, Domino will deliver in 30 minutes, and by then the FM wouldn’t have got to the stuff we really want to hear about: taxes, and prices of things we want to buy.
10.55: Only five minutes to go before H-Houd and Pranab’s BS. BS is not short for what you think it is – it’s budget speech.
Forget you and me. The first guy the FM has to please is Subbarao of RBI – Subbu. If, at the end of his speech, we get to know that the Guv called up the FM and said “Subbu khush hua” – the markets will break into a jig.
10.50:Questions, questions before FM grabs his speech booklet, and sips water before reading the stuff. Will he please the markets? Will there be something for the aam aadmi? Will he do Soniaji’s bidding or do a Dinesh Trivedi on his boss? And what will Kolaveri Didi do if he raises fuel prices? Will she explode?
To be sure, the only guy who will be watching the budget like a hawk is Reserve Bank Governor Duvvuri Subbarao. He has already told the FM – in coded language that only central bankers and FMs understand – that if the budget does not make serious efforts to close the budget gap – raise diesel prices, cut subsidies, etc, things you and I don’t like – Subbu will hold back on cutting interest rates. Goodbye cheaper home loans, et al.
Yesterday, the Guv was in Kolaveri mood – and refused to cut rates.
10.45: On tenterhooks. What will Pranab-da do? Even more scary. You know what happened to Dinesh Trivedi. PM complimented him on the rail budget and he is getting the sack. Hope nothing like that happens to Pranab-da. If Manmohan Singh pays him the highest tribute, he’s done for.
10.30: Okay folks, here we go. It is just 20-25 minutes to the start of Pranab-da’s seventh budget, billed as a make-or-break one. It’s nothing of the kind. Life will go on. But if we don’t keep saying this, you won’t watch TV or log in to Firstpost, or think the budget is a big deal.
The markets are still in positive territory – they obviously don’t know why they are celebrating. If Pranab does something sensible – fix the budget, raise taxes or cut expenses – someone or the other will be hurt. The markets will be moping after the budget – whether it is a good one or bad. But don’t worry. They will get over it in the coming days. There is too much money chasing stocks this year.If you ask the cognoscenti, this is what they will say they want to see from Pranab-da: fiscal consolidation (code for cutting subsidies and expenditure), something to cheer business and get it