The interim Budget reflects the government’s unwavering dedication to embarking on the transformative “Amrit Kaal” journey, poised to fulfill the ambitious vision of a “New India.” Geared for a triumphant leap towards achieving a developed status by 2047, the Budget places emphasis on inclusive growth. Seeking to inject fresh vitality into the economy, it aims to fortify India’s remarkably robust ecosystem, positioning the nation as a dynamic global growth catalyst.
The emphasis on tackling socioeconomic challenges and enhancing the well-being of every citizen, with particular attention to youth, women, the underprivileged, and farmers, is highly commendable. It aligns seamlessly with the overarching vision of a progressive New India.
At the heart of the Budget lies a pivotal focus on empowering women, a cornerstone that promises to elevate their role in the workforce. Extending the umbrella of the Ayushman Bharat scheme to encompass ASHA workers, Anganwadi workers, and helpers, along with expediting Poshan 2.0 for enhanced nutritional outreach, and advocating for the vaccination of girls aged nine to 14 against cervical cancer – these initiatives collectively strive to boost women’s active participation in the country’s workforce.
Raising the bar for the “Lakhpati Didi” initiative from two crores to three crores is a significant step toward fostering women’s entrepreneurship. Indeed, self-help groups (SHGs), where some have transformed into “lakhpati didis,” stand out as powerful instruments for women’s empowerment. These groups play a crucial role in bringing together marginalised and economically disadvantaged women, enabling them to collaboratively strive for economic self-sufficiency.
Presenting a well-articulated Budget, the government showcases a resolute commitment to realising its vision of building robust infrastructure assets and directing resources towards capital expenditure. This exemplary approach is poised to ignite a positive growth cycle, fostering job creation. Notably, the substantial 11.1 per cent increase in the capex outlay to Rs. 11.11 lakh crores is a significant highlight. The extension of the 50-year interest-free loan to states for capital expenditure further underscores the government’s forward-thinking approach. The introduction of PM Gatishakti rail corridors targeting energy, minerals, cement, port connectivity, and high-traffic routes is not only encouraging but promises to enhance logistics efficiency and reduce associated costs.
The interim Budget strategically places a spotlight on agriculture, demonstrating a strong dedication to uplifting rural communities and boosting consumption demand. This initiative aims to address the challenges posed by erratic monsoons, alleviating rural distress. Recognising that the realisation of the “Viksit Bharat” dream hinges on transforming the rural economy, the government has taken the initial step by committing to foster essential investments in agricultural infrastructure. This involves encouraging both public and private investments in post-harvest activities. Additionally, there is a concerted effort to enhance value addition under the existing PM-SAMPADA and PM-FME programmes, which is expected to benefit farmers significantly and contribute to inclusive growth.
Moreover, the introduction of an electronic agri mandi network and a strong emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation will play a pivotal role in leveraging technology solutions to enhance the climate resilience of agriculture. The establishment of a dedicated department for fisheries, aimed at promoting aquaculture production and exports, coupled with initiatives like the promotion of the dairy sector and the “atma nirbhar” oilseed mission, signals a push towards diversification beyond traditional agriculture. Additionally, the Rural Awas Yojana (Gramin) is poised to give a significant boost to the rural housing sector, acting as a catalyst for rural asset creation, transformative growth, increased consumption, and the revitalisation of demand drivers in the rural economy.
In tandem with agriculture, the Budget places a paramount focus on the social sector, underscoring the commitment to safeguarding lives and livelihoods. The key areas of emphasis include health and education. The drive to empower the youth unfolds through the implementation of the New Education Policy 2020, the establishment of new higher learning institutions, and the promotion of skill development. Initiatives such as the formation of a committee for expanding medical colleges and the facilitation of loans to fuel the entrepreneurial aspirations of the youth are pivotal steps aimed at enhancing employability and propelling the growth engines of the economy.
With a substantial contribution of 29 per cent to the GDP, the MSME sector stands to reap substantial benefits from the government’s proactive measures. These include ensuring the timely and ample availability of credit, fostering the development of pertinent technologies, creating a conducive regulatory environment, and providing essential training for Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). Such comprehensive support is poised to incentivise these units to expand their scale of operations and enhance their global competitiveness.
Likewise, the government’s forward-looking vision is evident in its support for technology, research and development (R&D), and a strong push towards advancing the green economy. The creation of a substantial corpus of Rs 1 lakh crore, coupled with a 50-year interest-free loan, designed to offer long-term financing at minimal or zero interest rates, serves as a compelling incentive for the private sector to increase investments in R&D. This move is set to fortify India’s competitiveness on the global stage. Additionally, the introduction of a new scheme dedicated to enhancing deep-tech technologies for defense purposes is poised to significantly foster “atma nirbharta” (self-reliance) in high-tech manufacturing and emerging industries.
Simultaneously, the commendable emphasis on green energy is noteworthy. Initiatives such as providing viability gap funding for tapping into offshore wind energy, bolstering the ecosystem for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, coal gasification, and promoting rooftop solarisation, collectively contribute to fostering sustainability and propelling green growth.
Acknowledging that the realisation of many announced initiatives hinges on collaboration with the states, the Budget outlines a strategic approach to foster consensus with state governments for the effective implementation of reforms. This pivotal step is poised to unlock the untapped potential of the economy. Additionally, the government’s decision to retract specific outstanding direct tax demands is anticipated to diminish tax litigation and enhance the overall ease of tax payment.
The finance minister deserves commendation for exhibiting astute financial management and avoiding populism, steadfastly adhering to the fiscal deficit target at a better-than-expected 5.8 per cent of GDP for the current fiscal year. This achievement is noteworthy, especially with the challenging external circumstances and their potential impact on India. Furthermore, the fiscal arithmetic appears to be robust. The government’s prudence is evident in its commitment to constrain the fiscal deficit to 5.1 per cent of GDP for the fiscal year 2024-25, aligning with the glide path aimed at achieving a fiscal deficit below 4.5 per cent of GDP by 2025-26.
In essence, the Budget delineates a comprehensive roadmap for the economy, adeptly balancing the resolution of short-term challenges with the overarching goal of nurturing long-term capabilities. It is evident that the budget is replete with a plethora of measures poised to stimulate inclusive growth, all the while staying true to the vision of preparing the Indian economy for the future in our “Amrit Kaal” journey.
(The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)