Budget 2018: This year’s Budget 2018 brings to the fore the simple ask of most citizens of the country — ease of living, as was reiterated by the finance minister in his speech. Ease of getting access to basic needs of education, healthcare, infrastructure, jobs, new-age technologies and fair price for produce. As a development-friendly Budget 2018, it has opened a new world of possibilities with some bold and much-needed measures. The thrust on agriculture as an enterprise is key for a primarily agrarian economy like India. This core sector needed urgent attention and the assurance to farmers on price realisation for their crops will go a long way in addressing farm income volatility. Another sector that was in dire need of attention was healthcare. It was crucial to resurrect the country’s healthcare sector and make quality healthcare affordable and accessible to the country’s population, across both urban and rural centres. The plans are aspirational and will address the needs of the sector.
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Incentives for MSMEs is a welcome move as they are the job creators. Also commendable is the impetus given to skill development which is much needed for job creation. The standard deduction of Rs 40,000 may bring some cheer to the salaried. On revenue generation through cess, we possibly need a more transparent articulation of the utilisation plan for the funds mobilised through the cess and actual utilisation for the citizens to know the benefits accruing from these funds. The long-term capital gains tax has been brought back as was being widely expected. This is going to cause some concern among the equity investors and especially the new equity investors but it is possily more of a short-term market sentiment issue. Overall, there is optimism that the government would be able to adhere to the projected fiscal deficits as it is expecting revenue buoyancy.
The expenditure measures are also innovative as many of them do not entail a large budget outgo, viz the Rs 5 lakh health insurance cover for 10 crore families (50 crore population) will only entail the premium outgo and possibly save actual outlay on health sector expenditure to offset the same. What is also welcome are the decisive efforts towards strengthening India’s position as a digital economy through investments around new-age technologies like artificial intelligence and fintech is a timely and welcome move. The spotlight on cyber technologies is also an important move, for citizens, business and the nation as a whole.
This is a balanced Budget, with the right investments in development and in the social sector.