oppn parties Union Budget: Neither Here, Nor There

News Snippets

  • Delhi Additional district judge Nikhil Chopra says there is no legal right for people seeking to worship deity inside Qutab Minar, says it survived 800 years without worship so "let it survive like that"
  • Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann sacks state health minister Vijay Singla over corruption charges. Singla was later arrested by the ACB
  • Protestors burn the house of Andhra minister P Viswaroop and MLA Satish Kumar over renaming of Konaseema district as B R Amberdkar Konaseema
  • Gyanvapi: Varanasi district judge decides to first hear the 'maintainability' plea filed by mosque management
  • Delhivery and Venus Pipes shares list at premium of 10% and 8.7% respectively even when market sentiment was down
  • In a bid to cool edible oil prices, Centre allows duty-free imports of 20 lakh tonnes each of crude sunflower oil and crude palm oil per annum this year and next
  • Centre caps sugar exports to ensure availability of stocks in the domestic markets to cool prices
  • Stock markets get the jitters as RBI signals rate hike and government moves in to control inflation: Sensex tumbles by 236 points to 54052 and Nifty goes down by 89 points to 16125
  • IPL: Lucknow Super Giants to meet Royal Challengers Bangalore in the first Eliminator today. Winners to take on Rajasthan Royals for a place in the finals
  • IPL: Sensational David Miller blasts three sixes off the first three deliveries of the last over to help Gujarat Titans beat Rajasthan Royals by 7 wickets and enter their maiden IPL final in their debut year
  • While joining US-led IPEF, PM Modi says it will bring "peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region"
  • Mamata Banerjee says Bengal government will not lower VAT as the excise cut by the Centre will already reduce state's revenue by Rs 641 cr
  • Mamata Banerjee says Central agencies must be made autonomous to save democracy
  • While commuting the death sentence of 2 men and 1 woman, the Supreme Court says convict's conduct before and after crime is vital for death penalty
  • Health minister Mansukh Mandaviya slams the Covid death report of WHO at the 75th session of World Health Assembly in Geneva
US President Joe Biden says India-US ties to be among "closest on earth" //////// China and Russia send bombers near Japan even as Quad leaders were holding meetings there /////// Gujarat Titans enter IPL finals in style, beat Rajasthan Royals by 7 wickets
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.