‘Blank Bullet, Booster Short’: How Newspapers Covered Budget 2020
On Saturday, 1 February, the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the Union Budget. This year's Budget centres around three ideas — ‘Aspirational India,’ ‘Economic Development,’ and ‘A Caring Society.’
While some experts hailed the new income tax regime and the lower tax slabs for taxpayers, others criticised the government for not introducing any bold moves to revive the economy, which is reeling under a sharp slowdown.
Here’s how newspapers in the country covered Budget 2020.
The Telegraph: ‘Blank Bullets, Diabolic Bullets’
Living up to its reputation as a newspaper with fiery headlines, The Telegraph went with ‘Blank Bullets Diabolic Bullets’ as its front-page anchor.
‘The Finance Minister fires a blank in the parliament in the form of #Budget2020 while Kapil Gurjar fires two actual bullets at #ShaheenBagh. In both cases, the victim is India and Indians,’ The Telegraph said in a tweet about its front page.
The headline, which makes a reference to the firing by one Kapil Gujjar at the Shaheen Bagh protesters, ominously added, “They want us to get used to both”.
The publication described the Budget as one that lacked vision and firepower to ignite a faltering economy. The new personal tax regime was also termed as confusing.
While the minister did admit the lowball 10 per cent growth in nominal GDP – the lowest since 2010 – she glossed over the fact that the gaping hole was because of poor indirect tax collections, the publication wrote.
The Times of India: ‘New Tax Deal for The Common Man’
The Times of India had a positive take and detailed the many tax benefits announced by the finance minister. The article spells out how the new income tax regime offers lower rates as a trade-off for foregoing exemptions for annual incomes up to Rs 15 lakh. The move was projected as an effort to provide relief to taxpayers in the lower and middle income levels.
The picture accompanying the article was that of PM Modi comforting the common man along with a quote that read: BJP is a government that trusts its citizens and can assure the middle and lower middle class that their money is secure.
An article on the first flap read, ‘Taxing question : Are you richer or poorer?’ and outlined the new income tax slabs. However, the second flap featured a report on how the ‘southern states were the biggest losers in new tax sharing formula.’
The New Indian Express: ‘Long on Delivery, Short on Stimulus’
The New Indian Express went all out, and listed how the budget disappointed the stock markets, economic pundits and the common man, saying that it neither delivered the reforms to revive the economy nor put money in the pockets of the common people.
Taking a dig at the new income tax regime, the publication mentions how most tax-payers may prefer the older tax structure.
Another column contrasted the people’s expectations with what they actually got in the markets, real estate, automobile and telecom sectors. For instance, the measures to enhance credit availability for developers and industry status for the real estate sector, which could boost sales was expected but nothing specific was announced, the article said.
On the front page, there was a caricature of a patient representing the failing Indian economy and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Home Minster Amit Shah as doctors surrounding the hospital bed.
Hindustan Times: ‘Micro Gamble for Macro Gain’
Hindustan Times said the Budget ‘comes against the backdrop of the slowest rate of growth in 10 years.’
The article, quoting an expert, said the Budget was overall good in intent but the spending on each sector could have been doubled. ‘The finance minister did not take the bull by the horns,’ it said.
The flap even features a detailed account of how the ‘markets crashed as Budget unveiled.’
The Hindu: ‘Booster Short’
The Hindu played around with words in its headline, and about wrote how the Budget failed to deliver in the form of an effective stimulus for India’s fast-slowing economy.
Lower personal income tax rates and a hike in the deposit insurance cover for bank depositors were seen as feel-good decisions while the listing of Life Insurance Corporation of India and abolishing of the Dividend Distribution Tax were termed as bold.
However, the publication also pointed out that the breach in the fiscal earnings maybe hard to meet.