The launch of the Digital India campaign was a commendable move by the Modi government. While the move is in the right direction, it’s aggressive; and needs the backing of the Union Budget to really achieve the digital empowerment that was envisioned. Here’s how Budget 2017 can reinforce the initiative.
Strengthening the Base
Budget 2017 should support the development of Smart Cities, a critical piece in the Digital India plan. Budgetary provisions may support the creation of a corpus or fund to develop Smart City infrastructure across the country. Private participation should be encouraged in this endeavor, through financial aid and tax exemptions.
Spreading it Wider
Digital transactions soared in the aftermath of demonetization. Budget 2017 wish-lists include the withdrawal of government charges on digital payments to further propel this transition.
Even then, a large section of the Indian population would continue to be deprived of the benefits of Digital India. Incentives can be given for senior citizens to embrace technology. Widespread digitalization of pension payments can be a significant step in this endeavor. The government can use India Inc. to increase the adoption of technology through the creation of educational videos and virtual assistants.
Spreading it Deeper
Budget 2017 should include incentives to upgrade India’s digital infrastructure, such that more towns and villages have access to the internet. The Budget needs to incentivize digitalization of education. This can help spread knowledge and awareness, and provide vocational training to the remotest parts of the country.
Another look at the Marine Industry
While online shopping and electronic payments have been the buzzwords for Budget 2017, there’s little attention to the urgent need to revamp India’s Maritime industry. This critical industry can potentially form the backbone of the Indian economy, with the right impetuses in place.
Although India has a coastline that’s nearly 5,ooo kms long, it handles only a little over 1,000 MMT (million metric tons) of cargo in a year. There is an urgent need to revise the archaic laws and provide policy support to the Maritime industry. Budget 2017 can incentivize private participation, innovation and R&D, which would greatly increase momentum in this industry.
The Maritime industry should be at the forefront of the Make in India campaign. Budget 2017 needs to encourage FDIs in ports, shipbuilding and other shipping sectors. The wish-list includes a reduction in import duty on specialized equipment for cargo handling at ports. Through easy loans and grants, R&D activities can be supported.
Maritime Technology a Key
Software technology can play a critical role in data-driven development. Tax exemptions and faster procedural clearances would help the progress already being made by software companies in this arena. A reliance on technology can boost cost efficiencies in infrastructural development. This needs a push in the form of tax benefits and subsidies.
Finally, a reduction in corporate tax rates is expected from Budget 2017. This would propel the general business landscape in India and fuel the country’s journey to becoming a superpower in the foreseeable future.
The article has been authored by Piyush Nigam, Managing Director at The Ark Marine Solutions (TAMS), which develops, deploys and manages high-end technology products to enhance safety and efficiency for the shipping industry.