India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharam presented her fifth annual budget on Wednesday, February 1. The minister stated that the government is adopting seven priorities to guide India through the ‘Amrit Kaal’.
The budget has bracketed the seven priorities into three major headings –
- Opportunities for Citizens with focus on the Youth.
- Growth and Job Creation
- Strong and Stable Macro – Economic Environment.
The budget has presented the seven priorities as Saptarishi (seven sages). The seven priorities include Inclusive Development, Youth Power, Infrastructure and Investment, Unleashing the Potential, Financial Sector, Green Growth and Reaching the last mile.
The highlight of the budget for the farmers was the setting up of the Agriculture Accelerator Fund, for encouraging innovative start-ups in rural parts of the country. The credit to the agriculture sector has increased from Rs. 158 lakh crores to Rs. 186 lakh crores. The Minister stressed on the prospect of Natural farming in the budget. The government will facilitate over 1 crore farmers to adopt natural farming with the help of 10,000 bio-input centres. The government is in the process of preparing a cooperative database for the farmers.
The government has also proposed the idea of having a digital public infrastructure to develop more ‘inclusive and informative’ solutions for the farmers.
The Minister also made a series of announcements regarding the health sector. The Government of India will launch a Mission to eliminate Sickle Cell Anaemia. The disease is extremely common in India. Over 20 million patients in the country live with SCD. The condition is more common amongst the tribal communities. A GOI report states that every 1 in 86 people from the ST community have the condition.
Post the vaccine success, the government has announced to launch a new program to promote research in Pharmaceuticals. There has been a 0.7% rise in the GDP for expenditure on Health. However for education the rise is only 0.1%.
Unleashing the Potential
While stressing on ‘Unleashing the Potential’ in India, the Minister announced a series of initiatives in newer areas. India was already quite late to the 5G party, as before June 2022 over 70 countries already had the 5G services. The Minister announced the setting up of 100 labs for 5G services based application development.
To keep up with the global trends of Artificial Intelligence, the government will be setting up three specialised AI centres in educational institutes.
Preservation of the environment was also stressed in the 2023 Budget session. The Minister announced an initiative under the title of GOBAR dhan – Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro resources Dhan. 500 new ‘Waste to Wealth’ plants will be developed under the scheme. In a separate scheme the Minister announced the incentivisation of States/UT to promote the usage of alternative fertilisers.
The Finance Minister stated that the government will be investing a sum of Rs. 35,000 crore to reach India’s goal of net zero carbon emissions.
In an effort to boost tourism, the government has introduced a measure to select at least 50 destinations to be developed as a complete package for domestic and overseas tourists.
For an upgraded system under the companies act, the GOI announced the setting up of a Central Data Processing Centre.The Maximum limit for senior citizens savings scheme from Rs. 15 lakhs to Rs. 30 lakhs.
The fiscal deficit is projected to come down to 4.5% in 2025-26. The speech also suggested that the budget is on its path of fiscal consolidation.
In a major move, as a part of the Expansionary Fiscal Policy the Income limit for rebate of income tax has been increased from Rs. 5 lakhs to Rs. 7 lakhs. The tax slab will be nil for those earning under 3 lakhs per annum. While for those earning above Rs. 15 Lakhs per year, a tax slab of 30 % has been finalised.
Relief to MSMEs
The government of India will be putting another Rs. 9,000 crore for revamped Credit Guarantee Scheme to enable a collateral for Rs. 2 lakh crore loans for MSMEs. This will help the MSMEs to get loans from the banks, which are otherwise reluctant in absence of a collateral.
Although the rise in percent of GDP for Education is only 0.1 %, the government has announced a few schemes to enable a more encompassing experience for students to learn more. The Minister announced the proposal of setting up of National Digital Library to make up for the loss during the pandemic. The highlight of the digital library scheme is that it will also be available in the rural areas for the benefit of the students.