CHENNAI: For the first time in several years, the State Budget speech will be written by the presenter himself, Finance Minister Palanivel Thiagrajan. The minister, speaking at a webinar organised by IIM Bangalore Alumni Association, said that he would be writing a bulk of the Budget speech himself, unlike former ministers who relied on IAS officers.
When one asked what a ‘PTR Budget’ would look like, he said that the nature of politics is that one should not go too far in building one’s own aura. “We are all part of a Cabinet and the same team. I do not want to make it look like there is a separate kind of PTR view of the world. There is a CM’s view... we all execute it.”
“I would say philosophically, two to three things about the Budget that will be different this year from the last. First thing is, I will write the bulk of the Budget... many of the documents that are purportedly written by ministers and presented are actually written by IAS officers,” he said.
Citing an example on the proceedings in GST Council meetings, Thiagarajan said, “I was told that in the first 42 meetings, representatives from TN did not write a single word of the speeches prepared and presented on the State’s behalf. They were all given by the IAS officers of the Commercial Tax Department and they were read.”
Need to bring in fundamental transformation: Finance Min
"I can say for sure that the last two finance ministers were incapable of writing the speech they read. Clearly, somebody wrote it and they delivered. I do not mean in a disparaging way, but they were not professionally competent enough to have written those things. They may be brilliant politicians in other ways. I am not competing on that," the minister said.
He also hinted at bringing in fundamental changes from the next Budget. Elaborating on it, the minister said, "However, I want to use the opportunity to lay down how we are going to approach these things. In my opinion, there are so many things that need fundamental transformation." To a question on the roles of the newly-revamped State Development Policy Council (SDPC) and the new Economic Advisory Council (EAC), he said that the former has a clear role and focusses on day-to-day and short-term plans, while the latter is for "out-of-the-box thinking". "It was the Chief Minister who kept following up on the EAC.
He was clear to get worldclass people to think about 15 years in advance," he said. Explaining about the formation of EAC, Thiagarajan said: "All of them would have been happy to pick up the phone whenever we called and asked for advice without being announced as a council. It comes out of their heart, patriotism, and their desire to contribute.
We could have gotten all this without signalling to the world, but we thought it is appropriate to acknowledge the contributions they are making. Most importantly, none of them asked who were other members of the council. We feel incredibly privileged and blessed to have access to those kinds of brains. I will be putting their inputs into execution on a weekly, monthly basis," he said.