New Delhi: In her maiden Budget speech that lasted two hours and fifteen minutes, the Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, came out with an eloquent speech that captures the needs and aspirations of a nation that is on its path to higher development and welfare for all its citizens.
On the face of it, the Budget 2019-20 was devoid of the groundbreaking announcement, which was what the media was looking for. However, looking at the focus areas of the Finance Minister, it becomes apparent that the Modi government is seeking to transform the country by catering to the exact needs of India.
Tackling the Water crisis
With a looming water crisis across the length and breadth of the country, the Finance Ministry has rightly touched upon the issue by speaking of Jal Shakti Ministry. A NITI Aayog report gives a dismal report about the coming water crisis. It says 40% of Indian will not get access to water by 2030. India is said to run out of groundwater within 10 years.
Niramala Sitharaman said there will be an integration of different ministries to manage the country’s water resources and use it in a holistic manner. She proposed that the government will provide water to all rural household by 2024. Her initiative ‘Har Ghar Jal’ will make sure that the government will manage water at the local level by creating local infrastructure for sustainability.
The issue of the water crisis is high in many states with drought advisory being sent to Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu.
On the educational front
Another area of interest is her focus on the educational front which can clearly benefit a country which is home to a huge population teeming with youths. The government has focused on research-oriented higher education which will lead to innovation and development of new knowledge. Most developed countries have driven their growth by investing in the creation of new knowledge in technology, science, etc.
Nirmala Sitharaman said that there was not a single Indian educational institution in the top 200 universities in the world. However, within five years three institutions have managed to enter the list with concerted efforts of the institutions.
She has outlined Rs. 400 crore for boosting higher learning under the head ‘World Class Institutions’ for the fiscal year 2019-20.
The Finance Minister also proposed a program ‘Study in India’ with an aim to bring foreign students to study in Indian educational institutions.
Her focus to boost the earnings and employability of the youth she has stressed the focus on skill sets. The emphasis is on developing skills for young people in cutting edge technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, 3D printing, Virtual Reality and Robotics, etc.
Boosting Start-ups and MSMEs
An environment that is conducive for new Start-ups and Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) will go a long way in employment generation and increasing the growth and development of the country. That is exactly why the Finance Minister has given emphasis to it both.
A new channel is proposed to discuss the issues of those trying to set up Start-ups. Furthermore, scrutiny of valuation of share premium is done away with and a mechanism of e-verification will be made in its place. Tax scrutiny will also be avoided for funds raised by start-ups.
She has proposed clearing of loans upto Rs. 1 crore for MSMEs within 59 minutes through an online portal. In addition interest subvention to all GST registered MSMEs in the current year on all fresh and incremental loans are announced by the finance minister.
Infrastructure development is the basic requirement for the development of any country. The Modi government had focused on the development of this sector for the past five years and had come with miraculous results.
The Finance Minister has proposed a Rs. 100 lakh crore amount to boost the sector further. She has announced that an expert committee will study the long term finance and recommend the structure of the flow of funds.
The increase of road and infrastructure development cess by Re.1 per litre of Petrol and Diesel shows the government’s commitment to providing better infrastructure for the country. Though it will raise the price of fuel, the burden will be offset if seen from the larger perspective of better infrastructure like better roads, railways, etc.
Agriculture is the main employment sector for rural India. It is where more focus must be made to increase the earnings from the land for farmers.
Finance Minister is supportive of increased private entrepreneurship to drive value addition to farmers’ produce. Only value addition can increase the earnings for the rural farmers who depend on the land for their livelihood.
In addition, Nirmala Sitharaman has touched upon the Zero Budget Farming to reduce the input and increase the output in farming for poor farmers. It will lead to more money in hand for the farmers. The success stories of zero budget farming speak for itself.
10 thousand new farmer producer organizations will be also set up to ensure that the farmers get markets to sell their produce.
The FM has not harmed middle incomers who earn upto Rs. 5 lakhs a year and would not be taxed. However, higher income earners will attract tax. Through this, she has tried to balance the burden of the citizens. The surcharge of the taxable income for high net worth individuals have also increased.
The good news for the corporate sector came when companies with a turnout of Rs. 400 crore will come under the 25% tax net. Earlier only companies with Rs. 250 crore turnover enjoyed 25% tax and above it the rate was 30%.
Nation first policy
The Finance Minister has not made any groundbreaking announcements that could have earned her applause but she has stuck to keeping the economy on track. The FM could have easily fallen into the populism mode after securing a comfortable electorate mandate, but yet kept its focus straight and had the future of the country in mind.
Her hiking the customs duty on gold and other precious metals also is a good sign. Taxing unproductive commodities to earn more revenues is good when looked from the perspective of the National development.
Nirmala Sitharman has justly kept the development of the country by focusing on the needs of India.