Two to Tango: IPL and GST, a match report!

Dear Reader,

Hi! Here’s a piece on what happens when Parliamentarians are gripped by the IPL fever 🙂

This piece appeared in my column “Tweakonomics” in the Hindu Business Line today. You can read it at http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/columns/two-to-tango/article9631178.ece, or read it here directly. Cheers!

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Team FM was celebrating. They’d pulled off the GST feat in record time i.e. before the IPL began. Many of the NDA MPs had threatened not to be present if the Bills were not introduced before April 5. That had got FM Jaitley really worried. He had been pushing his team hard, and yet, some of those clauses looked tricky. “A strategic time-out, that’s what we need,” he told his beleaguered team, working out the clauses yet again to make them Chidambaram-safe. “Such express pace! If only there was an assured follow-on in 2019. Then we’d have done this in style!”

But the PM was pitching it hard and had asked him to put his best foot forward. He had to deliver not only the doosra and the teesra, but also the choutha! The Central GST Bill, Integrated GST Bill, Compensation (to States) GST Bill and the UT GST Bill, all at the same time. And all this with the Delhi Daredevil mufflers breathing down his neck.

To add to his troubles, there was Chennai Super King P Chidambaram in the Rajya Sabha muttering about how he’d goofed up in writing the clauses of the GST, especially with the wording of the anti-profiteering clause. With the anti-profiteering clause, the FM had just wanted to make sure that if companies were not passing on reduction in the GST rate to the consumers, there would be a third umpire to examine the case. “The presence of the third umpire is ok,” said the Super King snootily. “Who is the selector, is what worries me. Unorthodox and draconian, is my verdict. Howzzat!”

The BSP had another set of issues. In the first year of implementation, an offence, if compoundable, should not be non-bailable, they kept on hankering. Normally, the stumps hold the bails, grinned the FM to himself. But here the bails have them stumped. Heehee!

But his team had delivered. On March 29, all four supplementary GST Bills were passed in the Lok Sabha by voice vote. It was actually just a noisy out-break of relief that the damn thing was done before April 5. It meant that the entire “Wah bhai Wah” IPL season could now be enjoyed happily in front of the TV without worrying about how to ask intelligent questions and participate in the debate tomorrow just as Lasith Malinga came out with that Yorker. “Neat thrownnnnnnn,” roared the Gujrat Lion, pleased with the new phrase, new bill and new year. It sounded very English, and yet, had the pleasant Mitt-rrron impact on the Parliament.

The FM was super pleased. Here was the ultimate legal boundary- all four Bills passed at the same go! In the meanwhile though, the scene had shifted to Rajya Sabha, where there was a lot disappointment because Sachin Tendulkar didn’t turn up.

“He never turns up in the other sessions. That is ok. But it should be made binding on him to turn up in March. After all, we want to discuss important issues here. What are the prospects of the Mumbai Indians winning this season, we really want to know,” said a Rajya Sabha MP.

“It’s ok, we still have Dhoni,” said Super King cleverly.

“What? Now when did he become MP? Tch, tch, I really must start reading newspapers again!”

“Idiot! I’m talking about Sakshi Dhoni making that comment on Aadhaar. Oh, we’ll raise privacy issues now. Silly point to the rescue! You want the GST, eh? We’ll catch you, alright! How? Simple! Gully, Slip and the Third man!

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Demonetized Shaadi: Bollywood Style!

Dear Reader,

Hi! Here’s a tweak piece on the demonetization and the immense opportunities it has created for Karan Johar 😛 This piece appeared in my column titled “Tweakonomics” in the Hindu Business Line today. You can read it at http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/black-money-and-political-parties/article9374624.ece; else read it here directly. Enjoy!

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The scene opens in Netaji’s office, where Netaji is sitting glued to the TV listening raptly to the debate on demonetisation. Such is his interest that he has consumed only seven cups of tea since the morning, instead of the usual 11. A particular piece of news makes him sit up suddenly straight and holler for Clever Guptaji.

Netaji (in a deafening noise): GUPTAJI, GUPTAJI, where are you? Come in here. ASAP!

Clever Guptaji (scared): What happened, Sir? Have you discovered yet another stash of ₹1,000 notes? I was telling you, Sir. We can’t have only ₹40 crore in cash. There’s bound to be at least another ₹50 crore somewhere. But you wouldn’t listen to me, Sir. The moment they announced that only those with a clean image and less than ₹50 crore cash would get an LS ticket for next season, you had to shoot off your mouth about how squeakily clean you are. Tch, tch, at least you could have said ₹49 crore! But just ₹40 crores! The others were looking pityingly at you, Sir. You have now really lost your image in the party.

Netaji (annoyed): GUPTAJI! Stop talking nonsense! See what they are saying here in the news! Families with marriages can get up to ₹2.5 lakh in cash.

Clever Guptaji: Errrr, so?

Netaji: So? So? Go out immediately and tell all our karyakartas and partymen to book marriage halls, gardens and lawns. And it must look like the bookings were done in September itself. Even if you get 200 of our party workers to book halls, we can get at least ₹5 crores converted into the new currency. Ha! Do this immediately, before the other parties start looking for marriage avenues.

Clever Guptaji (protesting): Sir, this is getting really, really difficult. Our party workers are tired from so much stress, Sir. The moment they see me, most run in the opposite direction.

Netaji (annoyed): What nonsense, Guptaji! What stress do they have? Getting rid of just ₹20-30 lakh should not cause any stress at all, Guptaji!

Guptaji (panicking): But Sir, please understand the field reality! Our partymen have already posed as housemaids, drivers, gardeners in the last one week. Some have even acted as construction workers, truck drivers and even mine workers, Sir.

Netaji (impressed): Wow! Mine workers!

Guptaji (wincing at the memory): The problem is that since it worked in Bihar, the idiots thought it’ll work in Mumbai as well. Anyway, we next moved them to villages where they’ve already acted as farmers, shepherds, landless labourers, shopkeepers, tailors and even as MNREGA workers. Till that indelible ink started getting used, they were working three shifts, Sir. Farmer in the morning, landless by afternoon and driver in the evening. Some dedicated old handers even switched genders. Karan Johar is now recruiting all extras exclusively from our party, Sir.

Netaji (interested): That’s extraordinary! I must ask him to endorse me when I get my LS ticket next season! But, coming back to business, if we have such talented people, it is now easy. Just book the halls, and get some really nice wedding cards printed. And tell them to go into the banks wearing nice jewellery. Half of them can be parents of brides and the other half will be the parents of grooms.

Clever Guptaji (muttering): Let me call Karan Johar. He can start casting for Demonetised Dulhaniya Le Jayenge.

Playing by the book

Dear Reader,

Hi! Did you know that the FM had tied up the state of the Indian economy sub-consciously to the performance of the Indian cricket team in WC T2o? 😛

Well, here’s the relationship between fiscal deficits and cricket! The piece appeared today in “Tweakonomics,” a column on econ-humour I write for the Hindu Business Line. You can read it at http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/columns/playing-by-the-book/article8429549.ece, else read it here directly.

Enjoy! And do send in a comment or two!

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Fiscal targets and Indian cricket

Many an eye was left wet and leaking in that last over of the India-West Indies semi final, as the six hit off-Kohli rocketed into the stands. Chartered Accountants, many of whom had created internal deadlines of 6 p.m. on March 31 just so that they could watch the match were particularly indignant about the whole thing and were left vengefully thinking how cricketers could possibly be taxed more.

But no eye watered and no nose sniffed harder than that of the FM, who had somehow tied up the state of the economy with the fortunes of the Indian cricket team in T20s.

The FM too had cricketing aspirations, when a young wisp of a boy. However, as the years passed, the bye-laws began beckoning more sharply than the leg-byes, after which he decided to give a bye to that leg of the aspiration.

The many fascinations of allocation, distribution and stabilisation functions of the fiscal policy overtook those passions of batting, bowling and fielding. The classical version that Tendulkar played seemed almost “normative”; how cricket ought to be. It was rapidly getting replaced by “positive” cricket; higher speed, higher octane T20 cricket with crazy looking shots getting titled the Pallu shot and the Helicopter shot. Cricket, in which what ought to be, got replaced by what is.

Rather like the changes which happened to the NDA in the political arena. After a few years spent in taking interesting jibes at how governments ought to function and budgets ought to be, here was the NDA, now being asked to perform the helicopter shot. That the PM took this literally is another ball-game. And the FM found himself talking to the media not about how the budget ought to be, but about what it actually is.

And he made his pitch, like Captain Cool. As Team India strode as favourites into the World Cup T20 series, the FM felt his spirits rise. Yes, we shall deliver as promised! The UPA may well raise its delicate eyebrows, but fiscal deficit will be contained at 3.9 per cent!

To be defeated by 47 runs by New Zealand was such a shocker; no one had expected NZ to exhibit such form! The FM’s tummy churned unpleasantly. The last he’d felt so stunned was when RaGa had demanded a cap on taxes to get the GST passed.

With that Bill not getting through, the taxes wouldn’t show the expected buoyancy in the next fiscal; but the boys were back in the field laden with the expectations that only an India-Pak match can bring on, looking as buoyant as ever. And what a win! The emotional high of the moment could only bring on fond memories of the HR Minister decimating a cowering Opposition with tears and a voice shaking with high drama. We will not only do a 3.9 per cent fiscal deficit this year, we’ll also do a 2 per cent next year, thought the FM, high on positivity.

And to see Virat Kohli take on the Aussies was to believe that we’ll deliver a balanced budget next year! Zero per cent fiscal deficit target; ha, take that, you disbelievers!

Against WI, Virat and Dhoni’s batting was like watching the markets rise. Chris Gayle fell, as will the repo next month. But what’s this? How could we lose? By 7 wickets! The FM’s hand shook as he took a call from the CSO. “Sir, even if Kohl sector is up, we’ve real bad news. Fiscal target looks difficult because we’ve overspent.” The FM sighed. We’ve overspent by 7 per cent.

Gross Dal Product: The new GDP measure for India

Dear Reader,

Hi! Here’s a satire piece on the astronomical Tur Dal prices in India, which appeared in Tweakonomics, my column in the Hindu Business Line today. You can read it at http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/gross-dal-product/article7858501.ece or read it here directly! Comments/ views welcome, as usual! Enjoy!

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Here’s the new tadka to the humble dal of economics: The government will now launch with immediate effect a new series called as the Gross Dal Product. There are a number of advantages to using this series over our regular and boring Gross Domestic Product. First, most people don’t understand what the regular GDP thingy stands for and cannot begin to imagine why Moody’s should be so sensitive to the damn thing. But the new Gross Dal Product is something close to everybody’s heart, or, at least, tummy.

The Gross Dal Product will measure how much dal was produced in the country and any reduction in the growth rate will now be able to make the most sweet-tempered homemakers Moody, to say the least. They may also make the “Standard” people, “Poor”. The Gross Dal Product will thus be able to popularise economics amongst all stakeholders in the society. The government will also be able to use the Gross Dal Product as a leading indicator for social unrest and political instability. The subsidy on the new LPG, i.e. Lentils, Pulses and Grams, will be introduced and counter-cyclically adjusted to the new GDP.

Then, there’s NDP

Together with the Gross Dal Product, we will also calculate the Net Dal Product, which is the produce that is left for the public after being hoarded by the traders and consumed by the rodents. The “Friends of Rodents” Society took objection on calling it the “Net” Dal Product, but wily economists convinced them that this has nothing to do with the nets used to capture the rats.

Dal will have to be bought through banking gateways so that all transactions on the new GDP remain traceable. Banks will issue ATM cards which will be the only way to buy Arhar, Tur and Moong dal online.

Aadhaar cards will be replaced by Oo-Dal cards and will track gastrometric prints of people together with their bio-metrics. The Oo-Dal cards will allow disadvantaged people to purchase dal by debiting their FDs and RDs: the Fixed Dal and Recurring Dal accounts. In Fixed Dal accounts, you can buy only one kind of dal throughout the year by debiting the bank account. In the Recurring Dal accounts, you will be allowed to access six different kinds of dals. It goes without saying that the interest rate on RDs will be lower since the consumer gets access to such amazing luxury.

SDR guidelines

The RBI has already issued guidelines to make SDRs, ie Special Dal Rights, the main asset backing for issuing new currency notes. Similarly, Dal Indexed Bonds have also been introduced.

Changes in the Gross Dal Product will automatically get reflected in the new CPI, the Chana Price Index. The Opposition has expressed dissent and has said that unless the Tur (Arhar) prices are factored in properly, the new CPI will keep cheating the public.

The government, however, is adamant that it has a reputation to keep and to allow CPI to reflect reality will be an insult to the indicator’s highly opaque history.

There is also a demand from the trade unions to launch a new DA, the Dal Allowance, which will be benchmarked to the new CPI, which will go up as soon as the new GDP goes down.

The Incredible India campaign is to be re-launched around Kashmir, featuring the Dal lake. Innocent tourists who’ve never seen the natural wonder lentils such as Arhar and Chana will be able to view the dals from a distance. What a scan”dal”!

Of cumulonimbus | Business Line

Hi All!

This is my “Tweakonomics” article on Indra Dev and Monsoon Forecasting in India published in the Hindu Business Line today. Here’s a quick excerpt:

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The scene opens in the Indra Sabha, where LOTR, Lord of the errr, “Rains”, presides in full glory over humbler portfolios like Costumes and Jewellery.

Sevak: My Lord, the Indian Meteorological Department has given its long range forecast. Its website claims that the monsoon will arrive on time this year and will hit Kerala on 1st June 2015.

Indra Dev (interested): Oh ho! Really? Tell me, Sevak, on what basis do they make such claims?

Sevak: Sir, the poor earthlings at the IMD still use statistical modelling for monsoon forecasting. Can you believe it, Sire? I mean, this “identification of predictors to forecast the predict, assuming that the nature of the long run relationship between dependent and independents is stable” is boring ole OLS stuff. Almost Muggle stuff, you know, Sir! But Indian blizzard, being more wizard, defies predictability and hence, prediction. If you’ll permit your humble servant a quick spell, Sir…Cumulonimbus cyclonum!

Indra Dev: Confound that Potter woman! Not one of my trusted Sevaks can create a cumulonimbus in Sanskrit anymore. Sevak! Stop rolling about Rowling. And get Tolkien, I mean…talking.

For the full article, please see Of cumulonimbus | Business Line.