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Budget 2018 Reactions: I Believe That Jaitley Has Tried To Balance Pro-Development Agenda Ahead Of An Election Year, Vishwas Udgirkar

"The budget is a high rater for its focus on rural and farm sector," Vishwas Udgirkar, Partner, Deloitte India

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate this budget?
I believe that the Finance Minister has tried to balance pro-development agenda ahead of an election year. The budget is a high rater for its focus on rural and farm sector. For infra, however, I would rate it a medium in spite of a higher allocation, as much is subject to real implementation in absence of a follow-on mechanism.

Do you feel this is an election/populist budget or a developmental budget considering the elections next year?
The budget has focussed on rural infrastructure, farm, SME and informal sector, by large. The Finance Minister has provided substantial attention to the rural electorate, the aam aadmi, farmers, and poor, through various schemes such as Ujjwala, Pradhanmantri Soubhagya Yojana, Ayushman Bharat, SC/STs, affordable housing, and so on, which seem to be gainful measures ahead of elections.

Has the Government addressed the jobs/ employment issue adequately in this budget?
There is significant focus on MSME, job generation through MNREG and rural infrastructure creation, as also skill development, especially in new and emerging areas. Announcements on development of iconic tourist destinations, urban infrastructure, industrial production corridors, are also likely to have trickle down effects. Whether this will lead to real benefits on ground will be subject to actual implementation.

Is the farm distress/agri crisis addressed well in this Budget?
This union budget has given much more attention to the rural and farm sector. Various significant measures have been announced such as higher MSP (Minimum Support Price), agri infrastructure and market linkages, creation of a dedicated infrastructure fund of Rs. 2000 Crore for the farm sector, Operation Green at Rs. 500 Crore, Credit of Rs. 11Lakh Crore, extension of facilities to fishery and animal husbandry farmers, and so on, as also initiatives for job creation, could help address the rural distress.

Summarize the Union Budget in a few lines?
In terms of infrastructure, I would say, while rural and farm sector, affordable housing, and railways received a fair bit of attention in terms of allocations, one would have liked to see more across other sectors, especially regarding follow-on of announcements from the previous budgets. Whether there will be an on-ground action in renewal and development of cities, uptake of infrastructure funds, implementation of railway safety initiatives, or development of industrial corridors, in absence of a follow-on mechanism, is yet to be seen. Specific mention of improving suburban train system in Mumbai is a heartening announcement. Creation of dedicated funds for infrastructure creation in fisheries and animal husbandry are welcome steps in meeting government’s target of doubling farm incomes. The focus on MSMEs, rural and informal sector, women workforce, health care for poor families, education, construction sector, defense modernisation, digital infrastructure and blockchain, are all welcome moves, however the devil is in the detail.

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