Plethora of steps for Northeast
When the budget speech is so long, replete with recitation of verses with anecdotes, it becomes irritating and that is what happened today.
The victim was definitely the feel-good factor, although there were many new steps taken by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
The presentation was along three themes — aspirational India, economic development and caring society.
Economic development will come from agriculture and rural development besides trade, commerce and industry. Similarly, aiming for a caring India with provisions of social welfare measures are parts of aspiring India too. The same measures do have an impact on economic development.
The need for the government to increase demand so that growth takes place at a higher rate was made visible through numbers that were thrown in for agriculture and rural development, tourism, health and education sectors. But the highlight of the speech was stolen by the reforms in the rates of personal income tax and the removal of dividend distribution tax (DDT).
While the rate of personal income tax was reduced for the lower income earners so that they boost consumption demand, the challenge to move away from the exemptions to pay an amount without having to depend on the tax consultant is a positive step. Changes in DDT, concessions for MSME, start-ups, cooperatives, charitable institutions are steps towards a more liberalised economy.
One would have expected a mention of agricultural income tax. Even a bold step towards rationalisation of subsides should have been there. Emphasis on horticulture would help the Northeast because of the potential it has. Tourism is a sector which is important for the region. In skill development, students from the Northeast are recognised in the hospitality sector. With the new provisions, more people from the region will get employment.
Electrification of trains is another good step. Then there is development of the waterway. A cultural centre to come up in Sivasagar district will create more scope for tourism.
Overall the budget expectation was about increasing the fiscal deficit so that the govt can boost the economic parameters. There was an increase, but not to the extent expected. This meant that the government is not looking at the short term, even in the face of much criticism. The budget cleverly played around with numbers, making changes in the sectors that needed the push.