The 2021 budget was lauded as the one ‘like never before’. There was a lot of hype created around it, hailing it as the ‘a budget to boost economic recovery’, one to ‘drive economic revival post Covid–19’, a ‘reformist budget’ and so on. The Finance Minister said a few weeks back that this budget will be made in a manner ‘never seen in 100 years in India’. There are economists who were cynical about the hype. Prof. C.P Chandrashekar said,“Financial Year 2020–21 was one “like never before”. It warranted a change in the stance of the government, with a shift away from fiscal conservatism to a more proactive fiscal policy. There was widespread agreement that this was the way to go, even among those who in “normal times” advocated a conservative fiscal stance. But the NDA government has persisted with its neoliberal fiscal stance, resulting in collapsing revenues and stagnant expenditures. Given that evidence, few would buy the idea that the Finance Minister of that government would present a Budget “like never before”.
Yet, one of the expectations was to see an increase in the government spending on public welfare. Most countries ramped up government spending in the wake of the pandemic, while the immediate relief packages offered by the Indian state was a credit based one, the expectation in the budget was that there would be increased spreading at least in the health sector and social sector, increased opportunities for employment given the unprecedented increase in unemployment and loss of livelihood and address issues raised by the ongoing farmers protests across the country.