Surgical, Purgical and Mergical Strikes in the Indian Budget

The surgical strikes carried out by the Indian Army have taken the imagination of the country by storm and rightly so.

In the meanwhile, “Surgical strike” has become the absolutely new buzzword in town. Such is the lure of the word that Chetan Bhagat has immediately decided on his new book: Surgical Strike-Point-(at)-Someone. The fellow is simply incurable.

Newshour has declared 8 weeks of Surgical Strike analysis and apparently been calling up Pakistani politicians furiously to book their dates for the period. This single-handedly has caused dizzying levels of relief for Indian politicians, who for the first time in many days, feel completely free to make idiotic statements and mini-scams without fear of being grilled by the One and Only. The PR team of the UPA scion’s Kisan Yatra is said to have collapsed amidst mingled tears of joy and relief. The Kisans though, are on the run.

B-Schools, tired with meaningless terms such as “leveraging marketing strengths to enhance ground zero” are simply overwhelmed by the discovery of such a powerful new word. Harvard Business School has now officially included a new strategy in the corporate mantras: The Strike with a capital S. Bewildered students are now being asked to “leverage marketing Strike potential to enhance ground zero”. Financial Management Journals, which hitherto described “Strike Price” as the price at which a security can be purchased due to an option, now also include the definition of the “Surgical Strike Price”. This is the price at which security can be enhanced when no options are left with us anymore.

Amidst such corporate celebrations, however, the FM has been sulking. Had he known the term before, he could have leveraged it to enhance ground zero, errr, to highlight main points of the fiscal policy. How? Well, getting the GST passed was no less than a surgical strike, was it? To trump the Opposition in LS elections so as to get the majority in the Lower House, and then to diplomatically isolate them by highlighting their attempts to stall the Bill, was just the start. And then, those incessant sessions with the State Committees to understand the sticky issues and accommodate the sensible demands. Hadn’t he too, spent sleepless nights, before the passage of the Bill?

Take the case of removing the Plan – Non Plan design of the Budget.  For the first time, the Budget will be presented, way before its usual February date, without the usual priorities as suggested by a Five Year Plan. The Budget accounts will only be classified into the Revenue and the Capital Accounts, with zero mention of the legendary Plan and Non-Plan Expenditure classification. To remove the influence of the Five Year Plan from the Budget as well as do away with a separate Railway Budget has been no mean feat; a “purgical” strike, anyone?

Hmmm. And that masterstroke of creating the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), while at the same time allowing the Governor the autonomy of a casting vote. He had simply changed the dynamics of the game; now there would also be growth combatants together with inflation warriors within the RBI. He had successfully merged growth objectives with inflation management, and how! “Oh, I should have called it my “mergical” strike” he thought wistfully.

Of course, the decision of the MPC, in its very first policy review, to slash rates has not gone down well with all economists. Dr. Rajan, the erstwhile Governor shuddered delicately in Chicago, when quizzed about his reaction to the rate cut. “It’s more of a “splurgical” strike,” he said. “A classic case of too many cooks spoiling the Booth.”

 

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Alice in Budget-land

Dear Reader,

After all the serious discussions on the budget, I thought a little madness wouldn’t be out of line! Here’s something I tried under my column Tweakonomics at the Hindu Business Line. It was just too much fun putting this up, especially since I am a BIG fan of Lewis Caroll! You can read the piece here, or at http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/columns/alice-in-budgetland/article8305394.ece. Here’s to more madness!

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It’s time for a little madness!

And so it happened that Alice, who was dozing off, heard a patter of feet running excitedly past her. But what truly woke her up was the voice of the Rabbit saying, “Oh, I’m really late. Times Thencovered the Economic Survey. And Times Nowwill cover the Union Budget. Had to went, have to go!”

Alice was now fully awake and started to rush into the rabbit hole after Mr Rabbit, when she suddenly stopped outside the hole. Because there were two. The one on the left said “right.” And the one on the right, was, well, right! Left with nothing but right, she chose the right. Falling through the rabbit hole, she crash-landed into the office of the Chief Economic Advisor, who was eating, well, bread and JAM.

“Can I have some JAM too?” she ventured. The gentleman looked up. “In which bank do you have an account?” asked the CEA quite kindly.

“Bank? You misunderstood me. Sir, I am hungry. I just need a bit of Aadhaar.”

“Don’t we all!” beamed the CEA. “And then, you can just use the mobile to get the goodies, right from fertilisers to sugar to food!”

Oh my gosh! Alice thought, who ever said that the Indian economy was not yet developed. They send goodies through mobiles! Just then, Mr Rabbit came running into the office saying, “This is a true Chakravyuha! Only entry, no exits!”

The CEA looked piercingly through his spectacles. “We are going to change that Mr Rabbit! Companies and government policies will all have exit clauses. That is the only way to go ahead.”

“Strange!” thought Alice. “When there was no exit, there was no entry. The moment you announce exit, you prompt more entry! Oh, this world of economics gets curioser and curioser!”

“Sir, can you show me the road to the FM’s office?” asked Mr Rabbit importantly. “Ah, these rails and roads worth ₹2.8 lakh crore take you there. Oh, don’t mind all the repair work, my dear. It’s just the PMGSY. Don’t worry about the water either. Our water table’s not too deep. Not yet, anyway. Good luck with the FM! Mind you are fiscally prudent when you meet him!” advised the Advisor.

Alice turned the golden key 3.5 per cent to enter the FM’s office. She was uncertain, but it looked like the Sherwood forest. “And I am Robinhood,” said the FM, with quite a flourish.

“My dear men, let us take from the rich a Sir-charge to give unto the poor, who do not have dwellings. Give LPG to the maidens who cough every morn on the chulha. But we don’t hold people at the tip of our cross-bows, our offer is to voluntarily come and declare your wrongdoing and thou shallst be pardoned.”

“Ummm, of course, after you pay 30 per cent plus surcharge at 7.5 per cent plus penalty 7.5 per cent,” said Mr Adhia, looking anything but Hasmukh.

“45 per cent?” said Alice. “You seem to be quite thicketty with Picketty. When you grumble all the time about having no headroom, why do you wear two caps, Mr Robinhood?”

“Because the Mad Hatter gave them to me. The first cap has gone bad, you see. And the re-cap is worth ₹25,000 crore. And even with that, we are not covered. Market’s really weak. Now stop talking with me. I am going to court.”

“Of course, you are a lawyer!”

“Wrong again! I am off to the tennis court, my dear.”

“And with whom will you play?”

“With the RBI Governor, of course! I have just put the ball firmly in his court!”

Coffee and the Sensex: A lot can happen over both!

Dear Reader,

Hi! This is a humor piece I wrote for “Tweakonomics”, my column in the Hindu Business Line, on the IPO done by Café Coffee Day. You can see the article at http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/columns/coffee-and-the-sensex/article7766480.ece. Else, read it here directly. Enjoy!

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As CCD gets more stock savvy, there are major changes at its counters. The staff is being trained to understand the stock appetite of customers so that you can be offered the right coffee.

The basic humble cappuccino is for stock market novices. Do you put all your savings into FDs? Do you have crores invested into life-and-other insurance products? Do you buy gold for that rainy day? Aah! And you’ve just started that SIP, but you’re disturbed, eh? Awright, you stock novice! Enjoy the cappuccino. It’s an Italian espresso smoothened with steamed and foamed milk. Just like you’ve smoothened the stock risk with gold and insurance.

And then there are those unfortunate mega-bulls. Even when the Sensex goes to 28500, they say with childish enthusiasm, “We’ll sell when it goes to 29000!” These new-Newtons believe that whatever goes up has to go up even more, and immediately. The poor idiots are always latte in selling and drive their investment managers crazy. We’ve analysed your stock persona! Have the Hazelnut Latte, with espresso representing your indomitable spirit with the essence of those you’re driving nuts!

Oh, and you are quite the opportunist, aren’t you? No long-term investments, no brand loyalty. You go where the money is, you are impulsive, always trading. Hmmm. The quintessential Dalal Street types, always on the lookout for the best “mauka.” Yessir! Try out Cafe Mocha, our special beverage combining the hot milk of risk appetite with opportunity, that sinful chocolate sauce!

How interesting! In enters the modern woman fund manager. This is a new day combination. Modern, yet tied to the roots. Packs off the kids to school in the morning and creates hungama on the markets through the day. Uses technical analysis to forecast stock movements, but will also use her womanly sixth sense to predict what to buy.

Her life is a milk shake, with different influences blending into one wonderful, heady drink. She has just entered a cafe, but to offer her a coffee would be far too mundane. This is one tough customer, alright, but we’ve got just the right beverage for you! Introducing the Blushberry Frappe, chunks of strawberry in a shake topped with whipped cream.

For the old hands, those who’ve spent their life dabbling in stocks, go for the traditional Hot Tea. Newbies, go for the Fruiteazers, but beware of the “Meltdown”! For those who continue with their reckless investment pattern despite bad experiences, there’s “Devil’s Own”. After all, it’s better to have traded and lost than never to have traded at all. For those whose mood depends on the Sensex level, there’s the “Cold Sparkle”. And for those who’re now philosophically rather than fiscally following the Sensex, there’s “Kaapi Nirvana”.

Futures traders can take coffee beans home at today’s price to enjoy coffee at the same price in the future. Try AROMA instead of ARIMA models! Those who don’t desire customised intervention can take away the vending machine.

The “Tropical Iceberg” is the derivatives offering, with layers of chocolate and other gooey stuff, with coffee as the underlying security. CCD is also tying up with insurance firms to give you a full ENT check-up, should you feel a bit uneasy after trying those icy drinks; that’ll mark the foray of CCD into more exotic products such as Coffee Default Swaps.

The indicative price of the IPO is ₹328 per share. Forgo 3 coffees today, to enjoy a lifetime of coffee. Open for business!