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Budget Reactions: The Government Has Failed To Create A Fund For Climate Change Mitigation: Sudhir Sinha, CEO, CSR Inc.

"I see this as a ‘Pro Bharat’ Budget. I appreciate the government for being bold and courageous for not going for a populist budget despite getting into election years," says Sudhir Sinha, CEO, CSR Inc.

In an exclusive interview with BW Businessworld, Sudhir Sinha, CEO, Centre for Sustainability & Responsibility Inc., shares his views on the Budget introduced on February 1st. Edited excerpts:

There will be a BW Report Card – On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you rate the budget?

Nine on ten as it’s a bold and balanced Budget.

Do you feel this is an election budget?

To my surprise, I don't find it an election budget. In fact, I was strongly expecting the government to introduce "Universal Basic Income" scheme for the BPL families. This scheme could have been helped the government become popular. But, on the contrary, the government decided to remain aligned with its long-term reform promises.  

Is the jobs/ employment issue adequately addressed in the Union Budget?

If the budget is implemented well, it will create adequate jobs as well as opportunities for the self-employment. The Budget has made provisions for some seventy lakh jobs which seems to be very pragmatic and achievable. I am sure this number has potential to go up above one crore jobs as incentives have been offered in the budget to those who create opportunities for jobs. Many more jobs are likely to be created as the focus is laid on infrastructure and also on rural development. The Budget supports domestic industries by proposing several measures including raising import duties which too will create more jobs.

Is the rural distress/ agri crisis adequately addressed in the Budget?

I think this Budget has been made keeping in mind the growing rural distress and agricultural crisis. There are several measures proposed in the Budget which are all likely to address these issues. The minimum support price for crops has been increased to 1.5 times of production costs which will give a boost to agriculture and ensure farmers make good returns. Further, allocation of INR 2400 crore fund for development of agri-markets and 500 crores for ‘Operation Green’ will help in reduction of agricultural crisis which will end up easing out the rural distress sustainably in long run.

How does the budget look in terms of sustainable development and climate change efforts? 

Cumulatively this Budget addresses the issues of poverty, health, unemployment and the economic reforms which ultimately will have impacts on making our larger communities resilient. SDGs and climate change, in particular, do not make mention in the Budget. The Govt has also failed to create a dedicated fund for climate change mitigation which is required for meeting the country’s commitment to SDGs and the Paris agreement on climate change.

How do you summarise the Union Budget, in a few hundred words?

The Union Budget 2018 is unexpectedly not a populist Budget; it addresses several pain points. Although there are many things in the Budget that bridge the gap between India and Bharat, some of the followings are pro-poor and pro-people that make the Budget a special one. The government has set a target to construct at least 2 crore toilets. The target for loans to self-help groups for women has been increased to Rs 75,000 crore for boosting livelihood opportunities and private enterprise. An allocation of Rs 5,750 crore is committed to National Livelihood Mission. By 2022, every block with over 20,000 tribals and over 50 percent STs will have a special Eklavya school. 10 crore people are proposed to get Rs 5 lakh health coverage for hospitalization every year. The government aims to move towards universal healthcare coverage. Allocation of Rs 600 crore has been proposed for tuberculosis patients who are undergoing treatment. 1.5 lakh centers under Aayushman Bharat programme with an allocation of Rs 1,200 crore are planned to be set up which will provide health facilities. Allocation of Rs 52,719 crores for social inclusion of scheduled castes is proposed in the budget.

I see this as a ‘Pro Bharat’ Budget. I appreciate the government for being bold and courageous for not going for a populist budget despite getting into election years. Full points to the government for a long-term thinking.

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