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Pakodas in the snow

I know the past fortnight has been a heavy one for all of you. Too much economic stuff happening one after another. It’s been the same for me too.

It all began with a hectic trip to Davos for the World Economic Forum (WEF), where I was part of a select media contingent that managed to get some exclusive footage of snow. We also did hot yoga in the cold snow, sang the love song of Alfred J. Himesh Reshammiya, and compared the footwear of filmstars, HNIs, and wives of politicians. Thankfully, Davos wasn’t only about work.

The Swiss set

We also took time out to shop for Swiss cheese, Swiss chocolates, and open a savings account in a Swiss bank. If you are wondering how I managed the minimum balance requirement, that was easy — I opened a Jan Dhan account and told them to transfer ₹15 lakh from any of the Indian accounts in their Davos branch.

For me, the highlight of the WEF was the ‘India Power’ on display in every auditorium, conference room, and dining area of Davos. My heart swelled with pride when I saw a pakoda stall in each one of them. Take it from me, nothing compares to a plate of steaming pakodas after a long day spent making snowballs, eating waffles, and trudging on snow holding a microphone in one hand and self-respect in the other.

I am predicting that after zero, yoga, and Rajinikanth, India’s greatest contribution to world civilisation will be pakodas. If you are a true Indian, you will immediately drop everything else and express a vote of thanks to our Prime Minister for coming up with this brilliant idea to solve our unemployment problem.

My critics keep alleging that I am not great at math. But you don’t have to be Ramanujan’s grandfather to figure out that pakodas are the magic bullets that will kill four birds in one shot: create jobs, feed the hungry, grow our exports, and fatten the GDP. Let me break it down for you.

As per the 2016-17 NSSO data, a pakodawala makes an average of 300 pakodas a day. That’s 1,09,500 pakodas a year. Let’s assume he sells two pakodas per plate and each plate costs ₹20. That’s an annual turnover of 54,750 plates worth ₹10,95,000. Now, if every one of India’s 2 crore unemployed sets up a pakoda stall, that’s 2 crore pakoda stalls producing 2.1 trillion pakodas a year, generating revenue of ₹21 trillion. If taxed at 25%, that gives the government a cool ₹5.25 trillion, which is more than enough to provide food, healthcare, and 1-BHK dwellings with attached grazing area to every one of the 200 million cows in the country.

Anyway, as if Davos wasn’t exciting enough, the first thing I hear on returning to India is the fabulous news from the Economic Survey: open defecation in India has fallen dramatically since 2014, the year India’s greatest government came to power. For the past three years, India has been steadily going to the toilet. If this is not a cause for celebration, then what is?

I’ll tell you: the 2018 Budget. I know budgets can be difficult to decode. So I’ll do you the favour of explaining in layman’s terms why this is a bold, historic, and common man-friendly budget that deserves 10/10.

First of all, the Finance Minister has managed the incredible feat of successfully compressing the total capital expenditure to 2.6% of the primary deficit without any slippage in the revised estimate of the non-tax receivables deducted from the standard deduction. Second, this budget aims to put more money in the pockets of the poor, the farmers, and the middle class without decoupling its 2018-19 fiscal deficit target of 3.3% from the revenue shortfall in the projected capital receipts as per the 2017-18 budgetary estimate which, if you take into account the deceleration in the growth rate of the non-farm, unorganised, formal sector, could boost indirect tax receipts by 8.4%, thereby enabling a faster growth in capital formation and employment generation while avoiding fiscal defecation.

Percentage games

Third, the increase in cess from 3% to 4%, when set against the anticipated erosion in the real value of the nominal GDP triggered by rising commodity prices and falling demand curve could entail a sharp decline in monetary fundamentals, which can only be remedied by bringing down the debt-to-GDP ratio to 40% so that the suboptimal parameters of the recapitalisation bonds do not absorb more than the revised budgetary estimate of ₹17.82 lakh crore minus the 12.2% secondary deficit added to the Central scheme allocations as recommended by the 14th Financial Commission, which is precisely what India needs.

To sum up, India has had a fantastic WEF, followed by a fantastic Economic Survey, rounded off by a fantastic Budget. So, forget your silly lunar eclipse, and the little sideshow in the stock market. The celestial phenomenon of the century is India Shining.


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Printable version | Jul 28, 2021 3:24:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/pakodas-in-the-snow/article22645918.ece

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