NEW DELHI: People from all walks of life would be keenly following Nirmala Sitharaman’s words when she presents the ‘budget like never before’ on Monday.
While increased public spending would be the focal point of all desires, the industry body Assocham expects the finance minister to deliver on key demands of rationalisation of GST rates, higher spend on health, education and infrastructure, among others.
“As we are coming out of a pandemic, it is clear that the kind of impetus that the government needs for growth will be extremely critical for the next few years – both from the aspect of spurring investment and ensuring social inclusion. The government must relax its fiscal policy for 1-2 years so that there is ample room for continued investments. Any kind of fiscal deficit should not be considered as expenditure, but as an investment for the future to revive growth,” the newly-appointed Assocham president Vineet Agarwal told TNIE.
Sector-wise, the government must invest more on infrastructure such as roads and rural projects.
Similarly, public and private spending on healthcare and education should also increase as these would be investments for the future.
“As spending on infrastructure has three times the desired impact, the `111 lakh crore National Infrastructure Pipeline should be expedited,” he added.
According to Agarwal, who is also the MD of Transport Corporation of India, the government must increase allocation on schemes such as PM Gram Sadak Yojana as it has a trickle-down effect in not only increasing rural employment, incomes but also in building better infrastructure for agri supply chain.
With the logistics sector at the forefront of India’s aim to improve exports and domestic consumption, Agarwal said the government must focus on projects that promote multimodal transport.
Currently, 60 per cent of freight is moved through roads but the costs can be reduced if it is moved via rail and water.
Secondly, India needs more hospitals, specialty care centres, and expenditure on R&D, so that the country is ready for pandemics in the future.
“Government should look at reducing taxes rather than imposing new ones. GST rationalisation will push consumption-related demand, which has been contracting for the last two quarters,” said Agarwal.
To be sure, much of India has moved on from a time when roti, kapda aur makaan were its prime worries. Today, it is more focused on, for instance, broadband, which has become a fundamental need.