oppn parties Union Budget: Neither Here, Nor There

News Snippets

  • MS Dhoni decides to take a two-month break, will skip West Indies tour but will not retire
  • Phagu Chauhan is the new Governor of Bihar while Ramesh Bais has been appointed as that of Tripura
  • Governors: Anandiben Patel shifted from Madhya Pradesh to Uttar Pradesh and Lalji Tandon from Bihar to Madhya Pradesh
  • Naga talks interlocutor RN Ravi appointed as Governor of Nagaland
  • Noted lawyer Jagdeep Dhankhar appointed as new Governor of West Bengal
  • 84 NDRF teams have been despatched to 23 states to tackle the flood situation
  • Three persons lynched in Bihar after being accused of cattle theft
  • Delhi police seize a consignment of 1500 kgs of heroin and busts a cartel of Afghanistan-Pakistan narcotics dealers with links to the Taliban
  • Supreme Court gives 9 more months to complete the Babri Masjid demolition case trial
  • Priyanka Gandhi not allowed to meet the families of the dead in the Sonabhadra firing, arrested
  • ICC inducts Sachin Tendulkar in [email protected]@@s Hall of Fame
  • Stock markets bleed for the second day. Sensex crashes 560 points
  • S Jaishankar, Minister of External Affairs, says Pakistan should release and repatriate Kulbhushan Jadhav immediately
  • Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala asks the Speaker to hold the trust vote latest by 1.30 pm today
  • The Government sends a list of 24 questions to mobile app company that runs video app TikTok seeking answers for anti-national and obscene content carried on the platform
Former Delhi CM and senior Congress leader Sheila Dikshit dies following a cardiac arrest. She was 81
oppn parties
Union Budget: Neither Here, Nor There

By Sunil Garodia

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
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.