Overall, I believe the 2018 Budget is a good Budget. Probably I would give it 8 out of 10. The reason for that is there are several initiatives which I believe will create the right environment for job creation. For example, the investments that are proposed in the healthcare and rural sectors, skilling of 10 crore people by 2020, the reduction in corporate tax for MSME with turnover below Rs250 crore, all these I believe will trigger further investments and job creations. Secondly, the focus on providing health insurance for 50 crore people or 10 crore families up to Rs 5 lakh for a year is a great way to help the common man, because one of his biggest challenges is health care expenses. This initiative will mitigate that risk if implemented properly. The details of how this would be implemented I was not able to see. It may be there in the fine print. But, if it is implemented properly I believe that this will be transformative.
The government is also looking at improving digital infrastructure in the country and a slew of measures regarding that. It will help in getting access to remote areas, it will improve compliances and ease of doing business. It will also help us to move towards a digital economy. I am very positive about the investment it is making in digital infrastructure, improving connectivity and promoting e-filing. The same infrastructure can be used to deliver education and other services. The focus on research and development in some newer technologies like Artificial Intelligence, robotics, machine learning is laudable. It has allocated Rs 3000 crore to the Department of Science and Technology for this. It is a signal that these are important technologies and that will help us.
I strongly believe that tourism will get a significant boost because there are significant initiatives in terms of improving rail infrastructure, improving airport infrastructure and also improving road connectivity to rural areas. All these also will help in creating jobs as we go along. One negative aspect as far as I am concerned is that I was asking for an increase in research and development (R&D) expenditure. There are miscellaneous items but will it add up to increase in the R&D expenditure? I don’t know about it at this point of time. We need to look at it. I am of the belief that private sector also needs to increase investment in R&D. One more negative from the start-up side is that the finance minister did mention about incentives for start-ups, about looking at angel tax. But again no details are there. So I don’t know whether it is addressed or not.
The writer is co-founder, Infosys and former president, CII