This year’s Union Budget was a disappointment for those who were hoping that electoral pressure would persuade the Finance Minister to hand out a large package of sops to the voters. This temptation has been bravely resisted and the budget is a continuation of the economic policies that have been adopted and implemented by PM Modi over the last seven years. As a result, all those involved in the task of building the nation’s economy have whole-heartedly welcomed it because they understand fully the dangers of backtracking on reforms.
It has, of course, given the opposition parties the opportunity to complain about the ‘failure to provide the middle class and salaried folk relief from rising inflation’. They have also mentioned the difficulties being faced by the poor and the unemployed. However, a few opposition leaders have had the honesty to appreciate the steps taken to bolster the economy, even if somewhat conditionally. The general lament will reach a crescendo in the election bound states but it is obvious that the ruling BJP has factored this in and has placed national priorities above its own.
From Uttarakhand’s point of view, the further boost planned for transportation and connectivity in the mountain states through the Parvatmala Yojana should further help repopulate the state’s ghost villages, particularly on the borders. If looked at carefully, all states will benefit in particular ways because of the general boost to various sectors.
The criticism about not doing anything for the poor and the unemployed ignores the fact that the boost to infrastructure and financial support to the economy across the board will benefit both. In fact, mere giveaways without enhancing productivity make inflation considerably worse. It is the causes of inflation and unemployment that need to be addressed; merely applying balm on the symptoms does not help. These are the basic principles that politicians deliberately ignore for the sake of populist support.
Certain immediate concerns have been addressed, such as the so-called crypto-currencies. The first response has come through the taxation decision, as well the launch of the digital rupee. Incentives have been enhanced in areas that will promote the transformation of the economy in the ‘green’ and ‘atmanirbhar’ direction. These will not only be cleaner and newer, but also create entirely fresh categories of jobs. What needs to be understood is that the paradigm has changed – the budgetary process is no longer based on a top-down socialist model. It is directed at a broad based upwards growth that will enrich the nation in a more sustainable and ‘holistic’ manner, to borrow FM Sitharaman’s words.