A populist yet balanced budget with a grand vision: Srei
While laying out a grand Vision 2030 for building a modern, empowered and self-sufficient India and highlighting the government’s achievements during the last 5 years, stand-in Finance Minister Piyush Goyal has done a commendable job in presenting an Interim Budget which will bring a smile to the agricultural sector, the unorganized sector and the middle class.
Given the growing signs of distress in the farm sector in various pockets of India, this budget was expected to deliver special incentives for the agriculture sector. Apart from increased outlays for building rural roads and rural housing, this budget sets out a roadmap for bolstering the rural infrastructure that will encourage entrepreneurship in areas of allied activities like animal husbandry and fisheries, activities which have been entitled to interest subvention of 2-5%. In addition, the structured income support programme conceptualized in the form of Pradhan Mantri Kisaan Samman Nidhi aimed at farmers owning up to 2 hectares of land will benefit 12 crore farmer families. Farmers have also been provided relief in terms of interest subvention for loans in case of crop failures due to natural calamities. All these steps augur well to provide a push to agriculture and allied activities and I believe this will provide a spurt to the demand for agricultural equipment as well.
The vision of creating 1 lakh villages over the next 5 years is something that I found really interesting. This idea of bridging the rural-urban digital divide is something that resonates well with our very own Sahaj initiative which has created some 75,000 digitally-empowered rural entrepreneurs in the remotest villages of some 23 states in India. So, I look forward to the details of this Digital Village initiative. I feel there is huge scope of dovetailing the government vision with the existing infrastructure already on ground. In fact, our Sahaj centres can play a meaningful role in targeted delivery of subsidies to the farmer community.
The extension of the National Pension Scheme to the unorganized sector is a big step forward and will address the needs of some 42 crore workers after their retirement. The tinkering made with the National Pension Scheme and Gratuity schemes also augur well for the middle class. Most noteworthy is the exemption of income tax on annual income of up to Rs. 5 lakh. This, coupled with the increase of standard deduction from Rs. 40,000 to Rs. 50,000 per annum, the increase in exemption limit on house rent for TDS calculation and increased exemption on interest earnings will provide some relief to the salaried class which is welcomed.
The step to exempt levy of notional income on a second property owned by a tax-payer combined with the steps taken to encourage affordable housing augur well for the real estate sector. The recommendations of the committee that is looking into the issue of GST on housing will also hopefully provide some added impetus to this sector.
I was expecting some measures to be announced towards easing the access of funds for the infrastructure sector, especially on how to channelize long-term funds from the insurance and pension funds into the infrastructure sector. The Interim Budget could not address that part. I hope that aspect would get adequately covered in the actual Union Budget 2019-20 that would be placed after the General Elections.