Budget 2018: Being the last full Budget before the General Election in 2019, it focuses on rural, agriculture, healthcare, infrastructure and the MSME sectors which are the vital sectors for the economy. Clearly, the winner in the entire Budget 2018 is the health sector. The Universal Health Care System covering almost half the population with a health insurance of Rs 5 lakh per household is a clear path breaker and a good start to a comprehensive healthcare in India. This announcement, in combination with a focus on improving the healthcare centres across the country and opening of 24 new medical colleges and hospitals, is really a welcome move.
The finance minister committed Rs 1,200 crore in this Budget for this flagship programme for 1.5 lakh ‘health and wellness centres’, for providing comprehensive healthcare, including for non-communicable diseases and maternal and child health services. These centres will also provide free essential drugs and diagnostic services. The minister also invited contribution of private sector through CSR and philanthropic institutions to adopt these centres. Another major focus is the infrastructural spending. With large allocations for Railways and Smart cities, this will spur job creation and overall economic growth. Combined with focus on air connectivity across the country by linking many small air strips and helipads, it will surely boost the business growth. The Smart Cities Mission aims at building 100 Smart Cities with state-of-the-art amenities.
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As many as 99 cities have been selected with an outlay of Rs 2.04 lakh crore. Agriculture has been the back bone of the economy and with simmering farmer distress, the proposals on MSP for all crops and increase in MSP for Kharif crops, this is a much-needed balm for the farming and rural economy. An agri-market infrastructure fund with a corpus of Rs 2,000 crore has also been proposed to develop and upgrade agricultural marketing infrastructure in the 22,000 Grameen Agricultural Markets (GrAMs) and 585 agricultural produce market committees (APMCs). Top boost rural economy, the minister also announced two new funds — the ‘Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund’ and an ‘Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund’ — each with a corpus of Rs 10, 000 crore.
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MSMEs, which were affected during the last year on account of demonetisation and GST implementation, stand to gain with the proposal of reduction in corporate tax to 25% for those with turnover of less than Rs 250 crore. This will also result in job creation and a buoyant economy. It was also encouraging to note that the government is planning to use Fintech in financing space to help the growth of MSMEs. Couple of expectations let down were no changes in tax proposals for the salaried class and the reimposition of the long term capital gains tax. Overall, this Budget will lead to job creation from the infrastructure, agriculture and MSME sectors. More importantly, it is a satisfying Budget for the rural and weaker sections of the society.
–Manoj Kohli (Executive chairman, SBG Cleantech)