Budget 2018: Here’s why infrastructure may be top priority for Arun Jaitley

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Updated: January 19, 2018 6:16 PM

Rs 3,000 crore investment per day: That’s how big India’s infrastructure is going to get. With this kind of investment requirement, government's focus in the Budget 2018 is expected to be on the infrastructure sector.

Here’s why infrastructure may be the top priority for Arun Jaitley in Budget 2018. (Image: PTI)

Budget 2018: Rs 3,000 crore investment per day: That’s how big India’s infrastructure is going to get. With this kind of investment requirement, government’s focus in the Budget 2018 — the last full Budget of the present government — is expected to be on the infrastructure sector. In the 2017 Budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had given a massive push to the infrastructure sector and is likely to continue with it on agenda in the upcoming Budget as well.

In fact, for the NDA government, the infrastructure push has been a major target through all four Budgets. “Our infrastructure does not match our growth ambitions. There is a pressing need to increase public investment,” Arun Jaitley had said in 2015.

The government had allocated a record Rs. 3.96 lakh crore to infrastructure sector to spur economic activities and create more jobs in the Budget 2017. However, while the government has upped its funding for the infrastructure sector, the private investments have remained mute. For the Budget 2018, the government has dropped enough hints about going for a massive infrastructure push, while reviving PPP (public-private partnership) model will continue to be a challenge.

NDA government’s budgetary allocation in the infrastructure sector.

Economic Affairs Secretary Subhash Garg recently said that the government is planning to dedicate a large part of budget towards capital expenditure on infrastructure and will push for foreign investments in the sector. Arun Jaitley, too, said that the focus of the government next year will be on the momentum of infrastructure creation. Arun Jaitley said that while highways and ports have shown satisfactory results, infrastructure development in railways needs to be hurried. “Railway station, quality of trains, proposed bullet train, all need to be strengthened”.

There are at least 10 big infrastructure projects in the pipeline including Rs 12 lakh crore Sagarmala project and Rs 14,000 crore Bharatmala Project. The government, besides taking projects like these forward, may also allocate a grand sum for the infrastructural development of the Railways. The ambitious Bullet train project, which was announced in partnership with Japan, will need at least Rs 1.1 lakh crore of investment during the 2017-22 period.

Meanwhile, the Railway ministry is also pegging Rs 20 lakh crore investment plan for high-speed corridors and other projects for the modernisation. The goal of affordable housing and smart cities is also going to need big infrastructure investment.

As this is going to be the last full Budget of the present government before the General Elections in 2019, investment in infrastructure is going to serve a dual purpose: development and job creation. While analysts expect the Budget 2018 to be a populist one, a massive push in the infrastructure sector is likely to be on top agenda for creating employment along with special focus on rural population and farmers.

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