Budget 2018: In few minutes, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will present the Union Budget 2018 — the last full Budget of the present government and the first Budget post the implementation of the GST and it is expected that he may put agriculture and farmers on top priority. Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das, speaking to ET Now, that the government’s focus will be on agriculture and rural development. He further added that the challenge for the government is to link farmers to markets.
Earlier this month, Arun Jaitley, too, hinted at the Budget 2018’s tilt towards farmers and agriculture. He said India’s growth was not equitable and justifiable if it was not benefitting the farmers. While experts are estimating that this Budget, the last one before the 2019 General Election, is going to a populist one, Shaktikanta Das said that it is going to be fiscally responsible Budget.
Ahead of the Budget presentation, the Economic Survey, authored by Cheif Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian, suggested several incentives for farmers, saying that India is facing problems due to climate change and farmers are losing their income due to that. The Survey said that farmers could lose 15% and 18% on average on their income, and may even rise to 20% and 25% in unirrigated areas. It suggested that the government needs to work on ensuring the spread of irrigation as the water scarcity is rising and the groundwater is depleting.
Media reports earlier reported that the government was mulling over an increased Budgetary allocation for the flagship Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) to ensure protection to farmers against crop failure. It is to be noted that the year 2017-18 was marred by many protests in several agriculture-centric states. The farmers demanded loan waiver, which was given by states like Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. The Reserve Bank of India governor Urjit Patel, however, warned the downside of such loan waivers.
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Arun Jaitley today may announce an increase in Budgetary allocation for PMFBY to Rs 13,000 crore for 2018-19 from Rs 10,701 crore in 2017-18. Economic Survey, too, suggested government to build on crop insurance programme along with finding out weather-based models and technology to ensure fewer losses and faster compensation, giving an example of Kenya.
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Arun Jaitley may also announce higher allocation for research and development, farm education by 8% to Rs 8,000 crore in the coming year. The Agriculture Ministry reportedly asked a fund allocation of Rs 11,000 crore.