Budget 2020

Union Budget 2019-20 first take: A framework for the future

We had a positive start to the Budget cycle for 2019, with the Economic Survey setting a strong context for what India needs — the virtuous cycle of savings, investment and exports setting the base for sustained growth. The Survey had quite a few interesting ideas, including the notion of data as a public good, and encouraging behavioural change as a tool towards economic goals.

The maiden budget presentation by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman began putting the building blocks of this vision together. Through the budget announcements, we saw some green shoots of what could possibly propel India’s forthcoming growth story — the proposals for mega manufacturing, financing and MRO in aviation, the specific attention paid to very real concerns faced by start-ups, and the liberalisation of FDI norms in Insurance intermediaries are all welcome initiatives.

Infrastructure took centre-stage, as it deserved. The government’s intent to spend ₹100 lakh crores on infrastructure over the next five years will spur GDP and, if deployed well, can be the definitive push towards $5 trillion that the government is targeting. The Minister also adequately dealt with the banking sector, especially NBFCs, which were looking for policy support.

Alternative energy

Most strikingly, the budget was futuristic in its approach, with significant attention being paid to clean and alternative energy, a big thrust on electric vehicles, focus on research through the integration of National Research Foundation and beginning the commercialisation of India’s space power. While skill-building has been a focus of several budgets, this time new-age skills were spoken of, which would vault India to a world-beating position on talent.

It was heartening to hear the Minister assure the country that the government does not look down upon legitimate profit-making, and acknowledge India Inc’s contribution towards job and wealth creation. While we strongly welcome the application of a lower corporate tax rate to a larger set of companies, we look forward to further easing on taxation and incentives. I have a strong belief that the intrinsic value of corporate India is much higher than what the stock market indices or valuations currently indicate. As the face of India to international markets and investors, India Inc will be the government’s trustworthy partner, and I was glad to see that partnership take a step forward.

Having looked comprehensively towards the future, perhaps we need to look more deeply at the foundation upon which all these plans and targets will depend — the health of every Indian citizen, and the availability of a productive workforce, which will drive India’s ambition. While the budget did increase health expenditure allocations overall, an important area of work in forthcoming months would be in building health infrastructure, and in significantly increasing India’s bed-density. After all, it is by priming and preparing fertile soil that we can dream of growing a bountiful crop.

Suneet Reddy is managing director – Apollo Hospitals.

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2020 9:41:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/business/budget/union-budget-2019-20-first-take-a-framework-for-the-future/article28296927.ece

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