Union Budget 2019 India: While India has made great strides in increasing internet penetration, the Budget calls for further digitisation by expanding the BharatNet scheme, and 100% rural electrification by 2022.
By Kalyan Krishnamurthy
Budget 2019 has to be considered through the lens of the economic challenges before the government. This in mind, it was good to see FM Nirmala Sitharaman balance aspirations of all sections of industry and society. Her maiden budget clearly put MSMEs, infrastructure, innovation and Digital India at the forefront of driving India’s economic growth. With this Budget, the government committed to bridge the rural-urban divide through technology. While India has made great strides in increasing internet penetration, the Budget calls for further digitisation by expanding the BharatNet scheme, and 100% rural electrification by 2022. The initiatives to reduce India’s cash dependency by incentivising digital payments will boost tech and financial inclusion.
The government delivered a much welcome impetus to MSMEs, who are the backbone of our economy. Specific steps to increase ease of doing business for MSMEs will go a long way in increasing productivity. The plan to form an additional 10,000 FPOs will boost growth of farm infrastructure.
To successfully meet the $5-trillion target, I believe the internet economy has to fire on all cylinders and grow to a $1-trillion size in coming years. To that extent, the Budget proposals for start-ups and setting up a national research foundation will boost entrepreneurship in the internet economy, as well as innovation-led economic growth. The proposed revamp of education system will equip youth with skills that will make them competitive on a global stage.
Infrastructure investment also formed a crucial part of the Budget, with announcement of a `100-lakh crore investment plan. This, with the ‘Make in India’ scheme, will likely generate millions of jobs, increase incomes of middle-class, and boost demand over the medium term. The welcome surprise, in my view, is as the focus on promoting use of electric vehicles. By favouring EVs, the government has sent a clear message that our economic growth has to be accompanied by sustainable practices.
As India sets out to become a $5-trillion economy, it is becoming evident that the internet economy has to power that growth as much as banking and infrastructure. Developing internet ecosystem is one of the best ways to ensure broad-based, inclusive and sustainable growth. It ensures all sections of society have access to the same opportunities without any prejudice. The FM’s maiden Budget moves us several clicks in that direction.
(The author is CEO, Flipkart Group)