By Mohit Malhotra
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s last full-fledged Union Budget before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections is a progressive, growth-oriented one that promises to put more disposable income in the pockets of the consuming class, particularly the middle class, while focusing on building a new India with its heavy focus on capital expenditure.
The heightened focus on rural infrastructure development, enhancement of irrigation facilities as well as increase in targets for agricultural credit and impetus on agri-tech are measures that would surely help improve the quality of life in rural India, and ensure continued rural demand for branded consumer goods.
The Agriculture Accelerator Fund being set up to support agri-tech startups in rural areas and bring modern technologies to Indian farms and increase productivity; extension of the concessional institutional credit through Kisan Credit Cards to the animal husbandry and fisheries sector; and an outlay of `2,200 crore towards the Atmanirbhar Clean Plant Programme to improve availability of disease-free quality planting material for high-value horticultural crops will provide the much-needed solutions to present-day challenges of farmers.
These would be highly beneficial for companies with a strong rural footprint and help drive growth for the consumer products industry. Dabur has been investing ahead of the curve in strengthening its rural footprint, which today covers over 1,00,000 villages. This exercise would further gain pace, going forward.
The biggest positive, according to me, is the 33% increase in overall capital expenditure outlay on infrastructure development, which will take India towards becoming a true global powerhouse and help urbanise the hinterland. The government’s decision to set up a `10,000 crore per year Urban Infrastructure Development Fund for creating infrastructure in tier-2 and 3 cities will go a long way in boosting overall consumer confidence, and also help generate employment.
The 7-point agenda for this year’s Budget with a clear focus on building social infrastructure, reaching the last mile, driving inclusive development, green growth and harnessing the country’s youth power ticks all the right boxes. I am certain that these measures would help reduce the gap between the haves and have nots in the country.
The focus on empowering the middle class with the higher exemption limit and new tax slabs would provide some relief to the salaried class and put more money and more savings in the hands of the common man.
Overall, this Budget is all about maintaining continuity and accelerating economic growth. It will also boost confidence and spur greater investments in capex by the private sector. I would call it a growth-oriented and progressive Budget that balances growth with fiscal prudence while laying down the blueprint for creating an enabling framework that would promote an Atmanirbhar Bharat.
The writer is chief executive officer, Dabur India