By RC Bhargava
A Budget should lead to progress in the implementation of the government’s priorities. These priorities, endorsed by the voters, are faster economic growth, creation of adequate employment, improvement in the quality of life of the weaker segments of our society and sustainability.
Economic growth had, over decades, suffered due to infrastructural shortcomings. This government has been trying to make good the deficiencies and, in recent years, has been increasing outlays for this sector. The Budget provides for a further 33% increase over last year to `10 trillion. The railways receives Rs 2.40 trillion. This will boost demand for many industrial products and create substantial employment. Movement of freight by rail needs to be increased to reduce carbon emissions and the higher outlay will help.
The efforts to make doing business easier continue. That 39,000 compliances have been removed and hundreds of laws repealed show how hard it was to manufacture competitively in earlier years. Increasing digitisation, steps announced to expedite settlement of tax disputes and faster finalisation of income tax returns will lead to easing another pain point for investors. The Jan Viswas Bill is certainly a move in the right direction. The finance minister’s efforts to move to a simpler tax structure are most welcome.
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has been able to keep FY23 deficit at 6.4% and the target for next year is 5.9%. The goal of getting below 4.5% by 2025-26 remains intact. This is excellent and will give a great deal of confidence to investors, including from foreign countries. I do wish the disinvestment would move faster, but it seems that political compulsions are in the way.
Over the last many years, many initiatives have been taken that have made life easier and better for the deprived classes. This effort continues and programmes that will bring more women into economic activities and help artisans and craftsmen will certainly benefit the weaker sections. The focus on millets is not only scientifically valid but will help the marginal farmers.
The government seems well on its way to meet the 2070 target of carbon neutrality. The various initiatives for a green economy are most welcome. For the first time, there is a specific target for setting up bio-gas plants and it’s a step in the right direction. The merits of using bio-gas, generated from various waste materials, are many and will give substantial benefits. The removal of GST on blended CNG will help create demand for bio-gas from the oil marketing companies.
The decision to scrap old cars belong to the central government, and supporting such scrapping by the state governments is welcome. Private cars that do not meet the prescribed standards of safety and emission also need to be scrapped.
The Budget, despite being the last before the general elections, is not at all populist in the sense of giving away undeserved freebies. It is professional in its approach and conveys the government’s intent to maintain continuity of policy and objectives.
The writer is a chairman of Maruti Suzuki India