THOSE WERE DAYS of economic journalism. The financial journals focused sharply on the budget and its implications. In P R Srinivas, former editor of Indian Finance, who worked with IE for a decade, economist Dr P S Lokanathan, the renowned stock broker Chitra S Narayanaswamy and P A Seshan of The Hindu provided rich material analysing the nuances of the budget. IE and myself benefited through these interactions and developed keen interest in fiscal issues. These expanded manifold from 1973 when IE was invited to attend the annual Economic Editors’ Conference organised by the Press Information Bureau. The three day conference inaugurated by the Union Finance Minister, followed by interactions with over a dozen ministers and other policymakers handling economic portfolios, used to be organised in mid-March soon after the presentation of the budget. Thus it provided a good opportunity to discuss the implications of the budget with policymakers and also with senior economic editors.
A tool to raise resources…
The controlled economy with severe limitations of resources and suffering acute shortage of foreign exchange, used the budget as a tool to raise resources. Tax proposals thus had a serious impact on prices. Intense lobbying for concessions or moderation was also the order of the day. Speculation and hoarding of commodities and products used to be rife before the budget. This was more widespread in the commercial capital Mumbai and the commodity metro Kolkata.
For long, the portfolio of finance ministry was entrusted to political heavyweights like Morarji Desai, Y B Chavan... We also had these interspersed with leaders of keen finance acumen like Dr C D Deshmukh,T T Krishnamachari, Sachindra Chaudhuri, C Subramaniam and H M Patel. These vested the budget with a great deal of innovation.