Budget likely to be mixed bag of reforms and social agenda
by Ashok B Sharma on 25 Feb 2015 0 Comment

After the BJP’s victory march was halted in Delhi by the new Aam Aadmi Party, leading to its decimation in the state, the ruling party at the Centre has become cautious about not ignoring issues relating to the common man. Apart from being aggressive on market reforms and alluring foreign direct investments (FDIs), the upcoming Union Budget and Railway Budget are likely to focus on some of the needs of the common man. The Government’s intentions are amply from the President’s address to the joint session of Parliament.


The President’s address, drafted by the Union Cabinet, reflects the government’s annual agenda. A careful reading between the lines shows that the regime wants to keep its agenda for second generation economic reforms intact and give a human face to the processes of further liberalization of the economy. Thus, it intends to resolve the issues of the common man through the deployment of science and technology.


“Continuous evaluation of inverted duties is being undertaken to make Indian industries competitive. Stress is being laid on research and innovation. While focusing our attention on manufacturing for creating more jobs, my Government will continue to work on our formidable strength in the service sector,” the President’s address said.


Make-in-India is the pet project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Union Budget is likely to spare no effort in paving the way for easy inflow of FDIs and making concessions to the manufacturing sector.


As for the services sector, tourism is likely to get much attention. A new tourism policy is on the anvil. Major allocations are likely for developing Jyotirlinga Circuit, Sukhmangal Circuit, Dakshin Dham Circuit, Krishna Circuit, Himalayan Circuit, Coastal Circuit and Buddha Circuit. Dedicated tourist trains are already in vogue for some of these destinations.


The upcoming Railway Budget is likely reform and infuse new vitality into this project through better services, improved passenger-safety and increased movement of freight. By ensuring passenger safety and giving better facility, the government hopes to bridge the gap between infrastructure growth and passenger traffic growth. Greater allocations are likely for dedicated freight corridors and metro rail projects in some cities.


On the social sector front, government intends to make Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) “a powerful weapon to combat rural poverty” and by creating durable assets. It will direct about 60% of the expenditure under this scheme for creating agriculture infrastructure. Focus will be on promoting value-added agriculture, market reforms, use of technology, augmenting irrigation through river basin linking if possible and improving productivity in areas with untapped potential. Adequate attention is likely for livestock and fishery sectors.


Another area is skill development. A National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship is on the anvil to cater to the needs of both domestic and global markets. The Micro Small and Medium Enterprises are also likely to get attention. The Budget is likely to give attention to science and technology, particularly research and development. “Steps are being taken to channelize more resources for research and development in India; build world class research centres; nurture young talent and promote international collaboration, including the world’s largest optical -Thirty Meter Telescope”, the President’s address said.


The Mission Housing for All by 2020 is set to get adequate sops and allocation with government’s liberalized FDI policy. For easy flow of loan to housing and other sectors, the government is ready to undertake financial sector restructuring and expedite implementation of the recommendations of the Financial Sector Legislative Reforms Commission.


With a view to aggressively promote development of 100 smart cities, the government will come out with a National Urban Development Mission which would also focus on water and solid waste management.


Power sector is likely get adequate focus in the Budget along with the development of clean energy. Government intends to enhance the share of renewable energy in electricity generation from the present 6% to 15% in the next 7 years. Solar energy generating capacities will be set up along the international borders.


Defence allocation is likely to see a sea change with focus on the Indian Navy. Under Make-in-India programme, ship-designing capabilities, ship-building and ship repairs will be strengthened. An environment will be created to increase the shipping tonnage and reduce the transaction time at ports. The Jal Marg Vikas Project will be taken up with sincerity for comprehensive development for national waterways for transportation.


On the Information Technology front, Digital India will be taken up in right earnest. Auctions will be conducted for 135 vacant channels in 69 existing cities of FM phase-II as part of first batch of FM phase-III. It will also facilitate migration of FM phase-II to FM phase-III. This will take private FM radio to cities having population of more than one lakh and border towns in Jammu and Kashmir, northeastern region and island territories in a phased manner.


Prime Minister’s other pet projects like Swachh Bharat Mission, Namami Gange, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana and NITI Aayog are also likely figure prominently in the Finance Minister’s Budget speech.


The Budget, therefore, is likely to be mix bag of reforms, deployment of technology and innovation and social agenda. 

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