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Budget Will Test If Modi Can Keep His Promises

26/02/2015 3:40 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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An Indian worker pulls a cart loaded with goods at a traffic intersection in Mumbai, India, Monday, Feb. 23, 2015. The government of Asia's third-largest economy is this week expected to present in Parliament the budget for the fiscal year ending March 2016. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

The country's annual budget is always a looked forward to event with various stakeholders wanting a budget that is easy on their wallet and helps maximize their savings to give them the power to do more. This is true for businesses as well as for individuals.

However this year the budget will be more keenly followed, as it will be the BJP's 'walk the talk' budget. Country has heard a lot of talk and is now eagerly awaiting for them to fulfil those commitments. In an interim budget presented by this government there was all round disappointment from most quarters.

This is what Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar had to say about the interim budget: "There was no great fiscal vision, only minor reform... Instead of being long on vision, the budget speech was long in duration."

Also quoting Bibek Debroy from his column soon after the budget: "Why are there so many new schemes in the Budget, with measly sums of money? It's that big picture of tax and expenditure reforms one misses in these 253 paragraphs."

For the common man the only expectation from the budget is that their everyday expenses are reduced and there is more money in their pocket to spend as they please. While they read about global oil prices falling they see no real benefits as far as their expenses are concerned. They read about wholesale price index falling but don't see much of an impact when they shop for their daily needs. For business houses from extreme optimism it has now moved to cautious optimism because not much has come through in terms of ease of doing business and making the environment more business friendly to stimulate the much needed growth in real terms.

Eminent banker Deepak Parekh in an interview stated that the industry remains optimistic but impatience has begun creeping in among the industrialists as to why not much has changed on the ground on the ease of doing business front in the last nine months that the new government has been in power. The investment in the country has hardly picked up despite lots of talks. Industries invest in countries where action matches words being spoken and that has yet not happened hence investors are cautious.

Goods and Service Tax (GST) has been a long awaited and overdue decision that BJP when in opposition kept blocking and is now seeming to take a welcome U turn on its earlier stance if it happens in this budget.

The much hyped Make in India also hasn't done anything to make manufacturing in India a promising alternative to China or creating jobs for the youth. There has to be investment sops for MSMEs in various sectors of manufacturing for this idea to progress else will be looked at as another opportunity lost. The infrastructure output growth fell to a three month low of 2.4%. The government needs to aggressively invest in infrastructure. It should allow FDI to invest in infrastructure building if it wants to live up to its smart cities dream. Considering budget allocation towards this was measly in the interim budget it will only be fair to allow investors to have a stake in it.

Exemption in income tax and simplification of the slabs is on everyone's wish-list. A hike in taxable amount for adults under 60 years would leave more money in the hands of general public. The government spoke about maximum governance and minimum government maybe it will do them well to divest their stake in some of the public sector undertakings, but should also be able to ensure that employees do not lose out.

The Education sector should be the highest in the budget's priority list if we wish the demographic dividend of our population to work towards economic progress of the nation. The education sector has been promised 6% of the GDP by the BJP during election vis-à-vis 3.3% currently, the interim Budget didn't change the figures much. Education sector urgently needs to invest in the country's teachers and academicians and address the shortage of teachers that exists across the country, besides announcing new institutes. The country needs to promote scientific temperament in the country and the government should ensure adequate funds are provided for ensuring that. The government needs to use Skill India project to promote entrepreneurs in India.

India allocates 1.3% of its GDP on the health sector and in its manifesto the BJP had promised to allocate 3% of the GDP on this sector. In some cases better health facilities could be achieved through efficient use of money allocated. In some cases many poor, large Indian states, medical-personnel shortages are rife and vast areas have no healthcare on offer, so while efficiency of spending must improve, in these cases, more spending is important.

The agriculture and rural development has taken a backseat in terms of priority of this government basis of their actions on MNREGA, Land Acquisition, Minimum support price and fertilizer subsidies being cut as the murmurs go. Doesn't give much confidence to people living and working in these areas.

While reaching GDP targets and controlling fiscal deficit is important what is also equally important is to ensure that the budget looks and finds ways to earn revenue by welcoming investments and without having to create a bigger burden on the taxpaying population. This can be achieved by effective streamlining of various welfare schemes, generating revenue by addressing issues such as the ease of doing business, simplifying direct taxes, rolling out GST and utilizing funds more efficiently towards a more robust economy.

As the day arrives here is a wish and hope that the budget that this government presents is not yet another 'jumlebaazi' by the party. The nation can't afford to wait any longer for their share of 'acche din'.

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