Against the backdrop of a favourable economic survey, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman delivered her fourth budget on 01 February 2022. As the country is ushering into the Amritkaal era - the 25-year-long lead up to India at 100, the central government aims to achieve certain goals that will help realise the dream of making India an economic powerhouse. The goals of this Amritkaal focus on growth and all-inclusive welfare, promoting technology-enabled development, energy transition and climate action and virtuous cycle starting from private investment crowded in by public capital investment.
In order to achieve these goals, the central government has identified four areas of high priority to give fiscal attention. They are PM Gati Shakti Yojana, Inclusive Development, Productivity Enhancement and Financing of Investments. Thanks to the resilient recovery of the economy powered by a strong revival of revenues, the government has more fiscal capacity to increase its capital expenditure. The PM Gati Shakti Yojana is driven by seven engines, namely roads, railways, airports, ports, mass transport, waterways and logistics infrastructure. It is aimed at building world class modern infrastructure and logistics synergy. As a part of this initiative, the government aims to build 25,000 km of national highways in the year 2022-23. This means that almost a staggering 68.4 kms of highways will be constructed every day. Apart from this, four multimodal logistics parks through Public Private Partnerships (PPP) will be awarded in 2022-23. A multimodal logistics park is crucial because it will have facilities like warehouses, railway siding, cold storage, custom clearance house, yard facility, workshops, petrol pumps, truck parking, administrative building, boarding lodging, eating joints, water treatment plant, etc. Such parks are predicted to reduce logistics cost by at least 10%.
The government has also announced rolling out of 400 new Vande Bharat trains, India’s first indigenously developed semi high-speed trains, in the year 2022-23. As a step towards sustainable connectivity, the National Ropeways Development Plan will be devised. Under agriculture, the government is promoting chemical-free natural farming starting with farmers’ lands close to river Ganga. Apart from this, the implementation of Ken Betwa Link Project benefitting 9.1 lakh hectares farm land, providing drinking water to 62 lakh people and generating 130MW power has been proposed.
In the education sector, the government has announced the expansion of the ‘One Class One TV Channel’ programme to 200 channels. The government has also proposed to set up a Digital University with world class universal education. Such initiatives aim to make education more accessible and more affordable.
The government has also taken a significant step towards enhancing women’s welfare and child development. It has announced the upgradation of 2,00,000 anganwadis to Saksham Anganwadis. Anganwadi centres provide a package of six services: supplementary nutrition, pre-school non-formal education, immunisation, health check-ups, nutrition and health education, and referral services. Saksham Anganwadis are new generation anganwadis that have better infrastructure and audio-visual aids powered by clean energy and providing an improved environment for early childhood development.
In an effort to enhance productivity and enhancement, the government has proposed to auction 5G spectrum services in the coming year. The government has announced the rollout of Digital Rupee by the Reserve Bank of India. This is a positive step towards digitising the economy that will lead to a more inclusive financial atmosphere for various Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) across the country. The government has allotted Rs. 1500 crore for the PM DeviNE scheme that aims to fund infrastructure and social development based on felt needs of the North East. This scheme will provide the necessary impetus for the northeast region to grow economically. One of the major projects undertaken under this scheme is the ‘bamboo link road’ constructed at various locations in districts across the state of Mizoram. This scheme would be a huge boost towards the goal of inclusive development. Apart from this, the government has also aimed to increase water connectivity and shelter capacity across the country. It has proposed to cover 3.8 crore households under the Jal Jeevan Mission and build 80 lakh houses under the PM Awas Yojana.
As elucidated, this year’s budget is one filled with boundless promises. However, in the end it all boils down to implementation and last mile delivery of the schemes. Vision must be backed by political will and organisation integrity, to truly ensure that this budget puts India first.