Interim Budget 2024 lacks shines, weaves ornamental fiction

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Interim Budget 2024 could have been more proactive and could have addressed present issues and challenges of India like Inflation, Unemployment, Malnutrition, Rural Distress etc.

FM Nirmala Sitharaman

FM Nirmala Sitharaman

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By Pradeep Kumar Panda

Bhubaneswar, February 1: There is nothing spectacular in Interim Budget 2024 presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharama. Budget is heavy on fiction and ornamental language with new definition of terms like GDP (Governance Development Performance), FDI (Fast Developed India), 1 Crore Lakhpati Didi etc. There is no change in Direct Tax and Indirect Tax including Import Duties.

It seems there is no increase in Health and Education Budget. There is nothing to address Cost of Living Crisis. Converting 40,000 general coaches of Railway to Vande Bharat Coach will negatively affect poor and middle class passengers.

There is no measure to address inflation issues and unemployment issues including MSME sector. Youth is grossly neglected in the budget. Fiscal Deficit is 5.8% in FY23 and target is 5.1% for FY24 which is very doubtful as India has highest level of Debt since Independence. Fiscal Consolidation and Fiscal deficit are serious issues.

The Indian economy has witnessed a profound positive transformation in the last 10 years, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Thursday in her pre-election Budget, which is technically a vote on account and popularly termed an interim Budget. Sitharaman said people of India are looking ahead to the future with hope and options. She further said the government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi covered all aspects of inclusivity.

Structural reforms, pro-people programmes and employment opportunities helped the economy get new vigour, the finance minister said. After contracting by 5.8% in 2020-21, the economy recorded a growth of 9.1% in 2021-22. However, per capita growth declined to 5.1% which is 21 years lowest level.

Expressing hope that the BJP-led government will be blessed again by the people with a resounding mandate in the forthcoming general elections, the minister said: “Based on stupendous work, we expect our government will be blessed again by the people with a resounding mandate.” She also said India overcame challenges of Covid-19, created foundations for self-reliant India. India was facing enormous challenges when the Modi government took office in 2014, and it overcame those in right earnest, Sitharaman said.

As many as 11.8 crore farmers were provided financial assistance under the PM KISAN Yojana, Sitharaman said. Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) is one of the world’s largest Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) schemes. Under the PM-KISAN scheme, the government provides a financial benefit of Rs 6,000 per year in three equal four-monthly instalments. The money is transferred into the bank accounts of farmers’ families across the country through DBT mode.

As many as 1.4 crore youth were trained and upskilled under the Skill India Mission, the finance minister said while presenting the interim Budget on Thursday. The mission focuses on skilling, re-skilling and upskilling through short-term and long-term training programmes.

The government is addressing systematic inequalities, which have plagued society, Sitharaman said. Presenting the interim Budget 2024-25, Sitharaman said economic management over the past decade has complemented people-centric inclusive development. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) courses have seen enrolment of 43% women, the highest in the world, she added.

About 2 crore more houses to be constructed under housing scheme, and govt to launch a scheme for deserving middle class living in rented houses/slums/unauthorised colonies. In last 10 years, 25 crore people got freedom from multi-dimensional poverty, said FM. Direct benefit transfer of Rs 34 lakh crore through Jan Dhan accounts have resulted in savings of Rs 2.7 lakh crore.

Under PM Mudra Yojana, 43 crore loans aggregating to Rs 22.5 lakh crore were extended. The next 5 years will be years of unprecedented development and golden moments to realise the dream of developed India by 2047 said FM.

Rooftop solarisation to ensure 1 crore household free electricity of up to 300 units per month, household to save Rs 15,000-18,000 annually. FM Sitharaman announces plans to increase milk and dairy production.

Capital spending for 2024-25 raised by 11% to Rs 11.11 lakh crore or 3.4% of GDP. Tripling of capex in last 4 years resulted in a multiplier effect on economic growth and employment generation. 50-year interest-free loans of Rs 75,000 crore will be extended to states to realise dream of developed India.

Fiscal deficit expected at 5.8% of GDP in FY24, down from 5.9% estimated earlier and 5.1% fiscal deficit expected in FY25. Tax receipts for 2024-25 projected at Rs 26.02 lakh crore. We continue on path of fiscal consolidation to reduce fiscal deficit to 4.5% in 2025-26.

Processing time of tax returns reduced from 93 days in FY14 to 10 days and refunds made faster. Sitharaman says no changes in tax rates for direct and indirect taxes, including import duties. Government of India will raise Rs 14.13 lakh crore for market by issuing dated securities during 2024-25, said FM.  Centre will withdraw old disputed direct tax demands of up to Rs 25,000 till FY2009 and Rs 10,000 for 2010-11 to 2014-15.

On Infrastructure, she said that the capital expenditure outlay for infrastructure development and employment generation will be increased by 11.1% to Rs 11,11,111 crore, that will be 3.4% of the GDP. On reforms in the states for ‘Viksit Bharat’, she said that a provision of Rs 75,000 crore rupees as a fifty-year interest-free loan has been proposed to support milestone-linked reforms by the state governments.

She said that three major economic railway corridor programmes identified under PM Gati Shakti will also be implemented to improve logistics efficiency and reduce cost of energy, mineral and cement corridors, port connectivity corridors, and high traffic density corridors.

About the aviation sector, she said that the number of airports in the country have doubled to 149 airports. “Five hundred and seventeen new routes are carrying at least 1.3 crore passengers. We have also placed orders for over 1,000 new aircrafts,” she said.

“Under PM Fasal Bima Yojana, crop insurance has been given to 4 crore farmers,” she said. She said that Electronic National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) has integrated 1361 mandis, providing services to 1.8 crore farmers with a trading volume of Rs 3 lakh crore.

On Nari Shakti, she said that 30 crore Mudra Yojana loans have been given to women entrepreneurs. “Female enrolment in higher education has gone up by 28%” she said. “Over 70% houses — under PM Awas Yojana — have been given to women from rural areas,” she said. On PM Awas Yojana (Grameen) she said that despite COVID challenges, the target of three crore houses under PM Awas Yojana (Grameen) will be achieved soon.

She also mentioned rooftop solarisation and “muft bijli”, saying that 1 crore households will obtain 300 units free electricity every month through rooftop solarisation. “Each household is expected to save Rs 15,000 to Rs 18,000 annually due to rooftop solarisation,” she said.

On Ayushman Bharat, she said that healthcare cover under Ayushman Bharat scheme will be extended to all ASHA workers, Anganwadi workers and helpers. On agriculture and food processing, the Finance Minister said that Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sampada Yojana has benefitted 38 lakh farmers and generated at least 10 lakh employment.

“Pradhan Mantri Formalisation of Micro Food Processing Enterprises Yojana has assisted 2.4 lakh SHGs and 60,000 individuals with credit linkages,” she said. “A corpus of Rs 1 lakh crore will be established with fifty-year interest-free loan to provide long-term financing or refinancing with long tenors and low or nil interest rates,” she mentioned about research and innovation for catalysing growth, employment and development.

Interim Budget 2024 could have been more proactive and could have addressed present issues and challenges of India like Inflation, Unemployment, Malnutrition, Rural Distress etc.

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