oppn parties Union Budget: Neither Here, Nor There

News Snippets

  • India becomes the first country in the world to make flashing of anti-tobacco warning on shows on OTT platforms
  • BJP says that by targeting PM Modi on his visits abroad, Rahul Gandhi is denting India's image
  • Nepalese Prime Minister PK Dahal Prachanda arrived in India on a 4-day official visit in whihc border issues and several others contentious issues will be discussed
  • Even as Home minister Amit Shah tours Manipur and holds peace talks, violence continues in the state after a lull of one day
  • PM Modi says that boycott of Parliament inauguration by some opposition parties was an insult to the nation
  • Allahabad HC upholds Varanasi district judge's order that petition for worshipping Shringar Gauri in Gyanvapi mosque is maintainable and can be heard
  • Rahul Gandhi says if PM Modi were to meet God, he is such a 'specimen' and know-all that he would start explaining to God how the universe functions
  • Deloitte raises flags in Adani Ports' dealing with three entities regarding disclosure of facts
  • Centre meets the fiscal target of 6.4% in FY23
  • Data released by NSO shows India's GDP grew at 6.1% in Q4 and 7.2% in the full year in FY23
  • IOC takes cognizance of police action on wrestlers, asks IOA to protect athletes
  • World Rapid Chess champion Magnus Carlsen says India is doing a lot of right things and will soon emerge as a powerhouse nation in chess with scores of talented youngsters
  • Thai Open badminton: PV Sindhu & K Srikanth ousted, but Kiran George stuns third seed Shi Yu Qi 21-18, 22-20
  • The lone Congress MLA in West Bengal, Bayron Biswas from Sagardihi, who won in a byelection recently, joins Trinamool, Congress says such 'poaching' not good for opposition unity
  • PM Modi says every move of his government is guided by the wish to improve the lives of the people
Excellent GDP growth: Q4 at 6.1% and FY23 at 7.2%, beats all estimates
oppn parties
Union Budget: Neither Here, Nor There

By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2018-02-02 19:56:37

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator.
As expected, the union Budget this year was a political statement but a bad one. The BJP forgot that the middle class has always been its staunchest supporter. Yet, the budget completely ignored it. Apart from that, the government has failed to spell out how it is going to finance the grandiose schemes it has announced in the budget. Hoping for tax collections to improve and more people to come under the tax net and hoping to finance the welfare schemes from that money is hoping too much.

On paper, the budget will give the necessary push needed to the economy. Massive investments are envisaged in the infrastructure sector. If all of them fructify, hundreds of thousands of jobs will be created and companies that provide materials to this sector, viz. cement, steel, pipes, bricks etc will see booming business. But all this can only happen if the finance minister can raise additional funds. Where is the money?

The health insurance scheme announced for 10 crore families (or 50 crore people, assuming 5 members per family) is truly majestic in its sweep. It will easily be the worldÂ’s most comprehensive government-funded health care scheme. Reports suggest that the premium will come to around Rs 1100 per year. That translates to Rs 11000 crore for covering the entire 10 crore families. Again, where is the money? The finance minister was at his ambiguous best when he said that "adequate funds will be provided for smooth implementation of this program." He did not think it fit to say how and when.

The farm sector does get benefits, but again these will happen only if the schemes announced are implemented. Further, there is a huge risk of runaway food inflation if minimum support price is enhanced too much. Instead, the decision to set up integrated marketing centres for farm produce is better. The government must ensure that there are not too many middlemen in the farm supply chain as they are the ones who corner the profits with the farmer not getting his due.

The prime minister had ranted against protectionism at Davos. Yet, in this budget customs duty on more than 100 products has been increased to protect domestic producers. Granted that it will bring in revenue too but setting up trade barriers is not the way to earn revenue.

If the finance minister is able to improve tax collection and finance the schemes, all will be good. But if indulges in financial profligacy and resorts to borrowing throwing fiscal deficit targets to the wind, it will spell doom for the economy in general and the financial services sector in particular. The NDA government has shown exemplary fiscal discipline in its first three years. One hopes that the trend will continue. As The Telegraph daily put it in its sub-headline, this budget tries to appease all but pleases none.