It is said that Budgets are blueprints and priorities. This is exactly what gets reflected in the Union Budget 2022. The Narendra Modi government’s budget is actually the blueprint for the country’s journey to a $5 trillion economy by 2024-25. The priorities unfolded by the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman suggest that the government’s focus is on long-term goals instead of populism, which was contrary to wider speculation that the government would be obliged to go for some populist measures in view of the assembly elections in the five states. It’s good that the government kept in mind the need to set the country on a bigger growth trajectory on a long-term basis so as to meet the aspirations of a New India @100 by 2047.
Apart from long-term goals of reforms, the Budget’s focus is also on addressing immediate challenges that the country is facing, with provisions ensuring recovery and resilience in the wake of the pandemic’s massive negative impact on the economy. There is no denying that the two budgets since the outbreak of the pandemic had to be focused on addressing health emergencies in 2020 and 2021, as well as on the measures to minimize the impact on the economy.
In what makes this year’s budget a forward-looking one, the Modi government has taken into account all that is needed to set the stage for a quarter of a century, which is unlike previous practices of coming up with only a five-year financial and policy vision. This is something, which makes the ninth budget of this government under PM Modi remarkable.
This is the reason why PM Narendra Modi called the Union Budget “people friendly and progressive, full of new possibilities of more infrastructure, more investment, more growth and more jobs.”
What has caught the attention of the experts is the government plan to achieve long-term goals through the implementation of the PM Gatishakti Plan for infrastructure development. Experts believe and rightly, so that massive infrastructure growth in the country will create huge job opportunities, which is the need of the hour as well.
The Gati Shakti Master Plan encompasses seven engines, roads, railways, airports, ports, mass transport, waterways and logistics infrastructure. This will, the government believes, result in economic transformation, seamless multimodal connectivity and logistics synergy. Around 25,000 km of expressways will be built under Gati Shakti Master plan, which is a plan for multimodal connectivity and five river-linking projects as well.
In what augurs well for the growth of the country, sharp increases have been made in the allocations for highways, rural roads, housing, transport, cargo terminals and potable tap water connections. That the total allocation for the highways sector has increased to Rs 1.99 lakh crore from Rs 1.18 lakh crore in FY 2021-22 is a good augury for the infrastructure sector.
Needless to say infrastructure growth is mandatory to attract investments from abroad and to facilitate domestic investments as well. At the same time, it is also a good development that the government loosened purse strings for the agriculture sector, which is the backbone of our economy. For this, farmers’ woes have been taken care of by providing MSP payments. Rural areas cannot be left unattended when the growth is being planned. So, the government has also made substantial allocations for rural development under different schemes. Economists say that rural regions of the country will also be benefited immensely under the infrastructure development plan.
Apart from development of rural pockets, what is also a unique feature of the budget is the education of students in villages through e-vidya scheme. The pandemic definitely impacted the education process in the villages, with schools remaining closed. Undoubtedly, village development can be achieved in the real sense of the term only if the people living in rural areas are educated, without which India cannot achieve its ultimate goal of becoming a big economic power. This is the reason why the laying down of optical fibres in villages by 2025 tops the government’s development agenda. Experts say this will enable India to bridge the urban and rural divide in terms of education and technology.
What is indicated in the budget is that some concrete steps should be made so that it could pave the way for India to take a quantum leap for growth. So, in order to support this leap, the budget has been turned into a blueprint for the next two and a half decades. For this to be reality, the government has laid its focus on accelerating manufacturing and supporting MSMEs.
The government’s focus on clean energy is a welcome step, which is also a key component of its vision for India’s growth. That government has decided to revolutionise health delivery through the National Digital Health Mission will also go a long way in ensuring India’s desired development. A healthy and productive workforce will be needed for the country’s march towards the development goals. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has always emphasized on ‘Ease of Doing business’ in India. The budget has also focused on it accordingly, making provisions to create an atmosphere conducive for the same. Digitalisation thrust in the budget is dominating the public discourse, with steps to lower costs of transaction being welcomed. As a first generation entrepreneur I witnessed and faced the harsh reality of the controlled inspector raj and who so ever have seen those days understand the importance of changes happening through digitalization of processes and services in the Indian business and economy.
What is admirable is the vision that the budget shows for infrastructure development, sustainability, aggressive digitalization and connectivity to rural areas. One can say that the budget opens the door for world-class infrastructure for the country. All the plans and policies that get unfolded in the budget document will help the government to lift the economy to a higher growth trajectory of 8-8.5 per cent in the coming decades as has been planned by the PM himself. There is no denying that the budget has futuristic content as compared to previous years, with all focus on what could lead to capacity building for the future.
PM Modi’s vision is understandable when he said that the world of tomorrow will not be the same as it was before the pandemic. The world wants to see a large, democratic, diverse nation like India to be stronger than before. “India must speed up the pace of change and evolution, get Atmanirbhar (self-reliant) soon. Atmanirbhar India should be a foundation stone for modern India.”
The Author is a political analysts and former Chairman, Andhra Pradesh Electronics Development Corporation
The Gati Shakti Master Plan encompasses seven engines, roads, railways, airports, ports, mass transport, waterways and logistics infrastructure. This will, the government believes, result in economic transformation, seamless multimodal connectivity and logistics synergy.