Budget 2023: Going green not a cost but an investment

As we focus on the core sectors of the economy and the well-being of our people, the foundation for every course of action or expenditure must be the green mandate.

Published: 31st January 2023 01:22 AM  |   Last Updated: 31st January 2023 01:22 AM   |  A+A-

(Express illustrations | Soumyadip Sinha)

Tomorrow morning, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present Budget 2023 in Parliament. There is anticipation and there is hope. The stock markets will either go bullish or bearish. The Opposition will criticise the budget as always, while members of the ruling party will thump the desk with raucous approval—as they always do. Budget 2023 will be seen as a pre-election budget as nine states go to polls this year.

We must look at the budget as a journey and not an event. The budget journey of 2023 is one that started possibly with the first tenure of PM Narendra Modi in 2014. For the last nine years, every budget has delineated the policy that India will follow, putting forth its intent of expenditure and earning.

The many policy changes made en route were all really mini-budgets on their own. We have had many. These changes come time and again, invariably boosting the line of thinking that a government has to keep the nation on its fiscal track.

Since budget needs have been vociferously discussed over the last three months by all and sundry (industry bodies, prominent corporate entities and state governments to name a few), let me take a different route in this piece.

Since all is done and dusted, and the budget is a fait accompli tomorrow, let me fly a kite and lay out here a key vision as to what I think India’s Budget 2023 must look like tomorrow. It’s a dream. It’s a fantasy even. But then who knows: sometimes dreams have a way of coming true.

Here’s my dream. I do believe we need a budget that is different from them all. We need a green budget. A budget that lays out every tenet of development with a green flag next to it. A green flag that insists that every action is dictated by the green mandate. In many ways, India has a date to keep (as indeed the entire world does) by 2070. We need to save the Earth, and India needs to lead. If India doesn’t, who would or possibly could?

As we focus on the core sectors of the economy and the well-being of our people, the foundation for every course of action or expenditure must be the green mandate. Out here, the key question to ask is if what we are doing is contributing to the mess of pollution—be it air, water, land and indeed the Earth itself. Or, is it instead going to help reverse it all?

To that extent, the budget of my dreams would be a decarbonisation budget. A budget that lays out a distinct route for India to take, as it helps reverse the excesses on the planet. Sadly, the supra-developed nations, emboldened by their greed, are the ones who have done this to the planet. Unsurprisingly, the US and China have been the two biggest contributors of greenhouse gases; the two also rank the highest in terms of GDP. As India joins the race to usurp third place, we cannot run it as has been run by the developed nations. We need to do it differently.

The years ahead are going to be India’s decades. The India story is one that is being discussed passionately by one and all. India is today a talking point among nations across the world. If we are to remain a talking point, we need to be perceived as a responsible nation. A nation that cares not only for itself and its growth, but for all the nations on Earth, and most importantly, the Earth itself. I do believe this is a white space to occupy. A white space to paint green with intent and action. Actions that will be seen by the world at large to be responsible, rooted in reality, and fixated on the needs of the Earth.

The budget tomorrow must then be a green budget. This is the year when India’s population exceeds that of China. We need to go past the dragon with a green flag ahead, and not a red one. We need to reinvent a philosophy of development that makes green the core of our lives and businesses. This needs to start at the level of the government and its many enterprises. The government at the Centre must make green the mandate. PM Modi is a champion of correct causes. We have had Make In India, Startup India, Skill India and more. It’s time for ‘Green up India’ as a clarion call to follow.

The responsibility for this is not only that of the Central government, but that of every state government as well. Add to it the responsibility of every industry that has contributed to the pollution index of the Earth in the past. This is a Pareto play, as literally 80% of the blame for the pollution falls on industries like iron and steel, cement, automobiles and food (agriculture included).

If we are able to clean up the act with definitive but gradual action in each of these industries, India shall lead in both thought and action—an image it held in the ancient days. India needs to embrace this thought leadership and more importantly, action leadership, as we grow.

Budget 2023 can showcase this mandate. My hope is to see this happen. Decarbonisation must be the key purpose statement for industry and government going forward. And to support it all, we need infrastructure that falls into place.

Just as we have a NABARD (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development), it is time for us to look for a Green Bank. A bank that lends to every cause that is green, at preferential rates. Or why not a large green division in every bank that lends? A Green Bank that defines the thought that green is not a cost, but an investment. In addition to it all, time to bring in the green sops and penalty. A ‘Green Carrot’ that offers subsidies to industries that fast track the movement, and a ‘Green Stick’ that lays penalties at the doorstep of those that don’t.

I was thrilled to see the finance minister at the budget’s Halwa ceremony a few days ago, clad in a green saree. Perhaps an optimistic analogy, but was that a clue as to what will come? Can we have the world’s first green budget for a start? May we see her clutch the Budget 2023 papers in a green budget bag then? I just hope so. For the sake of the Earth, if not for anything else.

Harish Bijoor

Brand Guru and Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc



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