Understanding Bangalore-tilt in State Budget

Understanding Bangalore-tilt in State Budget

Submitted by Editor on Sat, 2016-03-19 19:28 Bengaluru: The budget, especially the state budget, is a much exaggerated document. Much of its promises means precious nothing. The budget is an exercise of allocating available resources along the policy priorities already identified. Unless the budget changes priorities of a government, it is only a routine exercise. And, generally governments do not use the budget to announce any major change in policy priorities. A few crores more for this sector or that sector or a few more schemes for this group or that group, which is what budgets entail, are not going to make life any different or less difficult for any section of the people. So, the hype around the state budget and the analysis that follows are hugely disproportional to its actual importance. At best, the budget can be used to get an idea about the financial management of the state but that part of the budget is generally least analyzed,  nor is it even understood by the media.This is the general story of Karnataka Government’s budget for the ensuring financial year (2016-17) too. Yet, one small but significant change cannot be missed in this year’s budget presented on March 18. That is the importance given to Bangalore City, at least in terms of allocation. A total of Rs 6,044 crore, including a special chief minister’s package of Rs 5,000 crore has been promised to the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). Is this amount really going to be significant given the city’s gigantic infrastructural and other challenges? That is a difficult question to answer but what seems undeniable is that it marks a huge jump from the allocation that the capital city used to receive from the state government in the past. Ever since this government came to power three years ago, its relative indifference towards urban areas, especially towards Bangalore was well-known and it has had cost it politically hugely. At last, the government seems to have woken up to the political and economic importance of Bangalore.Two questions arise in the wake of this huge financial commitment to the city. Can the city hope for better days with this? Will the government’s anti-urban image change because of this?Well, when huge amounts flow into projects after projects one can certainly see some changes for better but the problem with Bangalore is that the city grows faster than the pace of infrastructural development. As a result, the net effect of investment always seems minimal, if not zero. What the city needs therefore is long-term plan, with some perspective and an overhaul of the civic administration in Bangalore. The last point is particularly important because the capacity of BBMP is too low to be effective in spending this huge allocation meaningfully. So, along with this financial bonanza, the state government could have also announced some plans to overhaul the administration of Bangalore. The B.S. Patil Committee has already prepared a blue-print for this. But, the budget is mum on anything beyond allocation of funds and mention of a few infrastructural projects. It is true that the budget is not the only occasion to announce this but financial commitment along with some promise of political will to change the civic administration would have made citizens of Bangalore more confident about the Government’s promise of refurbishing “brand Bangalore”.That may be too much to hope. Even the special package for the city is presented in such an inspiring and politically incorrect way in the budget speech that it says the government wants to give a facelift to Bangalore to “attract investment”! So, the focus is not the harried citizens of Bangalore but the investors! And to top it all, none of the various schemes that have been announced as part of the special package has any deadline for completion. Citizens of Bangalore who have seen many big promises made in the previous budgets taking them nowhere would hardly be inspired just by the numbers alone. After all, political communication seems to be the principal failure of the current regime. (The Author is a former journalist and a faculty member in Azim Premji University)