New Delhi: Departing from previous pre-election Vote on Accounts, the Interim Budget 2024, presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had several hits and misses. Though the Budget speech had no big-ticket announcements for the salaried class but it was not exactly bereft of a holistic approach.
On the direct tax front, the budget can be termed as a damp squib for the salaried class, but one has to give it to the Finance Minister as she refrained from incorporating populist measures to woo the electorate ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
The Interim Budget, can be considered as forward-looking in matters of nation-building. The Budget has kept adequate focus on sustainable economic development.
In the Budget analysis, one must delve into key aspects of the FM’s statement in which she has assured commitment to long-term growth.
Firstly, the increased threshold for presumptive taxation from Rs 2 crore to Rs 3 crore is expected to provide the much needed relief to small retail businesses. This will enable them to concentrate on growth and development. By supporting the small businesses, considered the backbone of the economy, the budget has brought back the importance of fostering a conducive environment for business expansion.
Secondly, the budget has also tried to touch upon the entrepreneurial ecosystem, by extending tax benefits to startups. This is in line with PM Modi’s vision of long-term sustainability of the startup ecosystem. Also, the need of the hour is to push ahead innovation.
Another cornerstone in the Budge announcement was substantial allocation of funds to the Education Ministry. It got highest-ever budgetary allocation of Rs 1,12,898.97 crore. And this is indicative of government’s resolve to prioritise educational excellence.
Another strategic move in the budget announcement was showcased in the establishment of a substantial corpus of Rs 1 lakh crore. FM has announced to create a corpus of Rupees One Lakh Crore. The corpus will be established through a fifty-year interest-free loan. This initiative, can stimulate private sectors and propel private investment in sunrise technologies
The government’s continued focus on rural development was also evident in FM’s announcement on PM Awas Yojana Grameen. FM announced scheme to help those living in rented accommodations or slums to acquire a house. Additionally, she also announced building 2 crore more houses for the rural poor in the next five years under the continuing PM Awas Yojana (Grameen) – a move that aligns with a broader vision of inclusive growth.
The budget also emphasizes equal representation of women recognizing the need for inclusivity and empowerment of the fair sex in various sectors. Facilitation of a 34 crore loan for women entrepreneurs, a 43% female enrollment in STEM courses, and the allocation of one-third seats in government, underscores the cause.
Moreover, the substantial capex outlay and emphasis on infrastructure development is also a welcome move. The allocation of resources towards infrastructure development will go a long way in strengthening country’s economic foundations.
While the 11% capex growth may seem lower compared to the 30% average growth seen in the last three years, one can argue that it still constitutes 3.4% of the nation’s GDP. FM’s speech showed the government’s commitment to infrastructural development. Added to this, FM Sitharaman seemed to be balancing the need for fiscal prudence with that of economic expansion.
In conclusion, the Interim Union Budget 2024 could be seen as forward-looking document. Furthermore, by abstaining from too many populist measures, the government has also signaled that it is not interested only in wooing the voters ahead of the general elections, but it is rather laying the groundwork for a brighter future.